Friday, July 15, 2011
Denise Hildreth Jones's The First Gardener ~ Reviewed
THE FIRST GARDENER
Denise Hildreth Jones
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 1, 2011)
Jeremiah Williams has been tending the gardens of the Tennessee governor’s mansion for over twenty-five years. And like most first families who have come and gone, this one has stolen his heart.
Mackenzie and her husband, Governor Gray London, have struggled for ten years to have a child and are now enjoying a sweet season of life—anticipating the coming reelection and sending their precious daughter, Maddie, off to kindergarten—when a tragedy tears their world apart. As the entire state mourns, Mackenzie falls into a grief that threatens to swallow her whole.
Though his heart is also broken, Jeremiah realizes that his gift of gardening is about far more than pulling weeds and planting flowers. It’s about tending hearts as well. As he uses the tools that have been placed in his hands, he gently begins to cultivate the hard soil of Mackenzie’s heart, hoping to help her realize what it took him years to discover.
A Southern tale of loss, love, and living, The First Gardner reminds us that all of life is a gift, but our heart is the most valuable gift of all.
The First Gardener takes place mainly at the Governor’s Mansion in Tennessee, and involves the Governor, Gray London, his wife, Mackenzie, and Jeremiah, the gardener that’s been working at the mansion for nearly 25 years. Gray and Mackenzie have been trying for years to have a baby, and they finally have a little girl, Maddie. Maddie has just started kindergarten, when a tragic accident occurs. As a result, Mackenzie falls into a deep depression. Jeremiah is able to start bringing the family and Mackenzie out of their grief through love and his gift with flowers.
I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. When I started it, I didn’t expect to be able to get into it, but I had a hard time putting it down. Faith wasn’t a huge strong topic in the book, but I enjoyed the parts where it was brought out. I loved seeing how the main characters were finally able to turn back to God, and give their troubles over to Him, realizing they couldn’t carry the burdens on their own.
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter
I was thrilled to receive a review copy of Denise’s compelling new novel. It’s an accurate look at two imperfect people’s lives in the middle of a horrific battle for their souls. The reader gets an intimate glimpse inside the hearts of a couple in-love with each other and live until one day they are hit with an unexpected blow. Gray and Mackenzie take a hit they my not recover from.
Fans will get to see another side of this author’s creative talent as they read The First Gardner. This book is quite different from her others. A good different! Denise’s story is rich and illuminating as she peals back the layers of this couples life to show what’s really inside the human heart, when the rubber meets the road. Not everything comes up roses! Denise Hildreth Jones shows the reader God is with us even in our anger and pain!
I adored the gardener, Jeremiah. I liked how he described pain and our wounded heart, “A shut-down heart’s ‘bout the saddest thing ever I see. ‘Cause we all come out the womb with our hearts wide open. All sweet an trustin’ and close to God. It like we got this line runnin’ straight up to heaven.
But life can start cuttin’ into the line. Little cut when we little and sump’n sad happens or we find out somebody can do things better ‘an we can. More little cuts…all that just keep sawin’ at that line from heaven to that little alive heart. And finally it don’t want to stay open no more, so it just clench up!
That be to what a shut down heart look like-all sad and scared and bitter, all them things. But the real sad they is, it don’t have to shut down! Cause even with all them cuts, that line to heaven still there. If it go and close up, that our doing!”
I fell in love with five year old Maddie, Mackenzie and Grays daughter. Denise has the reader laughing out-loud one minute and their throat tightening up, and tears run down their faces the next. A scene that cracked me up was when Maddie approaches her dad about keeping a dog she loves. Gray says, “Puppies are a lot of responsibility, Maddie.”
“Tons, Daddy. And I’m so big, I’ll take good care of her. Feed her. Pee her. Poop her. All of it, Daddy.” I could just see her adorable eyes looking at her daddy pleading her case for a puppy.
Eugenia’s friends are a riot and made me laugh as well, they go to lunch and say to the waitress, “I’ll have a piece of your chess pie and a piece of your chocolate pie,…And Dimples here wants your mint fudge brownie and a piece of pecan pie. We have both decided that life is better if you lead with dessert.”
I loved this novel that reveals Denise’s pure honesty and willingness to be so vulnerable. She says, “I discovered as I began to write about Gray and Mackenzie’s pain over losing Maddie that I was able to use much of my own personal pain about not having children that had been a deep ache in my heart for so long!...I do know what it is to grieve the children I thought I would give birth to… I’ve learned God will give us beautiful companions on the journeys through our pain if we are willing to open our eyes and look for them.”
I loved the fact that Jeremiah sent flowers to Mackenzie every day. Each flower had its own meaning and he encouraged her without the use of a single word. I applaud Denise Hildreth Jones for her honest, refreshing way in which she looked at pain and the battle being waged against our souls. How do we fight the good fight on days we can’t even get out of bed? God says He’s the Glory and the lifter of our head!! My Hope and Refuge.
Denise gives a peek into how God works in our lives in unexpected ways. I highly recommend this story which gives the reader a visual on the attributes of God and so much more. These characters will stay in your heart and mine long after the last page is read!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction