The cover of "The Garden of Small Beginnings" by Abbi Waxman. (Image courtesy of Berkley Books)
La Cañada High School

Review: ‘The Garden of Small Beginnings’ teaches big lessons

When I purchased the book “The Garden of Small Beginnings” at an estate sale, I had a gut feeling that it was going to be a great book. I knew as soon as I started reading that my gut was right, and it’s easy to see why so many other people like this novel so much.

Lilian Girvan, the main character, is a widow. After she watched her husband die in a horrible car accident, she had a breakdown and was sent to a mental hospital for three months. Since then, she has had to deal with suicidal thoughts, her grief, and raising her two daughters, Annabel, 7, and Clare, 5.

Lilian is a textbook illustrator. When she is sent to attend a gardening class by her job, she doesn’t think she will enjoy it. But by the end of the six-week long class, gardening had become a calming pastime. She made friends along the way and learned that you really should try to expect the unexpected, because you never know what life will throw your way.

Lilian’s sister, Rachel, helps her raise Annabel and Clare. When Lilian is having a hard day and just can’t get it together, she can count on Rachel to help her out.

This isn’t the only exhausting thing Lilian has to heal from. This book is filled with plenty of “Wait, that just happened?!” moments. What I like so much about the story is that it is engaging throughout, yet it is still easy to follow and stay interested in, even with everything that happens. As I read more of the book, I became more invested in the story and characters.

This aspect of the book ended up being my personal favorite, and I really appreciated how Abbi Waxman wrote her story.  

I also really enjoyed the humor in book as well. There were many moments when I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t let out a random, hearty chortle while in public. Lilian and Rachel frequently use their senses of humor to cope with pain and express themselves, and this particular aspect of their characters is quite entertaining. Their jokes and remarks will keep you on your toes, a little bit surprised, and laughing so hard that your stomach will hurt.

The one major problem I had with the story was the romance that was involved. It should be noted that I have never been a fan of romance, whether it is in real life or on paper. This is simply a personal preference, and if yours happens to be different, that is understandable. While I wouldn’t call this book a romance book because the romance is not what the book is about at its core, it definitely plays a clear role in the development of the story as well as the characters. At times, it just seemed completely unnecessary.

This book was sad, intense, and powerful, yet it was also hilarious and witty, as well as beautifully delicate through and through.

“The Garden of Small Beginnings” teaches important lessons, such as it’s always a good idea to be open to new experiences, and it is okay to grieve over someone you loved dearly and lost.

One of the authors that reviewed the book said, “I dare you to not enjoy it,” and I’m going to dare you to not enjoy this book as well. With all of the witty, this-is-how-it-is-and-it’s-hilarious humor, as well as watching the characters change in their own ways, this book will make you laugh, maybe cry, and wish that you could continue to watch the story of all the characters develop.

I was very disappointed when this book came to an end. I really, really want Abbi Waxman to write a sequel, because I want to see how Lilian has changed and managed all of the painfully difficult circumstances in her life.