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Book Review: The Unfinished Garden

Through The Unfinished Garden, Barbara Claypole White brings an uncommon depth and elegance to a beautiful love story. The protagonist, Tilly, struggles to move past the death of her husband by throwing her energies into her son, Isaac, and her North Carolina gardening business.

When a wealthy and somewhat dashing James Nealy offers an exorbitant fee to landscape his new home, Tilly flatly refuses. But the quirky software developer shows a remarkable persistence, even following her to her childhood home in England when Tilly’s mother becomes ill. There, Tilly reconnects with Sebastian, her first love, who has also returned home.

Both men are attractive and vulnerable. James Nealy is a sweet man who confesses to Tilly his OCD which he hopes gardening can alleviate. Sebastian is struggling to find himself after a nasty divorce, still determined to be a great father to his young children.

When reading this book, I was engrossed by Tilly’s love interests because they were real, flawed human beings striving to overcome their weaknesses. Unlike many other novels in this genre, I was not sure whom Tilly should or would choose. I was sympathetic to both. To me, that’s how real life is. Nothing is ever so cut and dried.

Also, I found both settings—humid, somewhat dangerous North Carolina and the crisp gardens of the English countryside—to be characters of their own. Barbara Claypole White’s descriptions drew me in and have made me hungry for more.

I love this book. It is a tender story that has stayed with me, and has me praying for a sequel. 

Me with author, Barbara Claypole White, at the 2012 South
Carolina Writers Workshop Conference, Myrtle Beach, SC

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