The Heirloom Garden: A Novel
In her inimitable style, Viola Shipman explores the unlikely relationship between two very different women brought together by the pain of war, but bonded by hope, purpose…and flowers.
Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.
When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.
With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today.
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The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman has Iris Maynard living alone in her home alone after the loss of her husband and daughter for the last six decades. She spends her time taking care of her beautiful heirloom garden. Iris then rents the cottage next door to a woman with a husband recently returned from Iraq and an inquisitive little girl. The Peterson’s remind Iris of how her family used to be before her husband died during World War II and her little girl from illness. Abby and Iris become friends. They find they have much in common especially a love of flowers. Can they help each other heal and discover that not one minute of a life should be wasted? The Heirloom Garden is well-written with relatable characters and incidents. Iris Maynard lost the two most precious people in her life. She erected a tall fence around her property and stays behind those walls. Iris has her heirloom garden to keep her company. Each flower holds a special memory. Gardeners will enjoy the beautiful descriptions of the flowers. They are heirloom varieties that include roses, irises, lilies, daylilies, bleeding hearts and so much more. We learn the meaning of each flower (the language of flowers) as well as how they were propagated and how to care for them. Iris’s garden sounded magical (it would also send my allergies into overdrive). I like how each chapter was titled after a different flower which was then featured. The story alternates point-of-view between Iris and Abby. It also goes between past (begins in 1944) and present (2003) to tell each woman’s story. The Heirloom Garden is confusing in the beginning, but, once you get into it, it becomes easier. The pacing is gentle (not slow or fast) which suits the story. Abby Peterson is a chemical engineer who is developing a special marine paint and was hired by a local company. Her husband, Cory came home a different man from Iraq. He spends his days drinking and sleeping. Lily is a curious little girl who is quick to make Iris’s acquaintance. Lily was a delightful addition to the story. She added lightness and humor. The two homes are Sears kit homes (I would love to live in one). The author provided good information on the homes and I enjoyed the vivid word imagery. I like how the two story lines were blended and came together for a special ending. The Heirloom Garden is a heartening story with a cheeky child, a gorgeous garden, paint problems, a gripping grief, special seeds, a worried wife, a dispirited soldier, and marvelous memories.