The eponymous gardener is little Lydia Grace Finch who is growing up in the Great Depression. In a time of family crisis her family sends her off to live for a while with her Uncle Jim who runs a bakery a train ride away. Lydia Grace’s grandmother sends her off with packets of flower seeds: cosmos, zinnia and marigold.
Now that I’ve read the book I realize why my neighbor knew I would enjoy it. I’ve often told her how this Uncle Jim spent hours long decades ago with his niece sharing the joys of gardens, plants, insects and the outdoor life – and how those joyous days were never forgotten by her and are now being shared with her son. Not only can this Uncle Jim take some credit for his niece’s love of gardening, but he’s a baker, too.
What my neighbor did not know is that my mom is a child of the depression, and she experienced something very like what Lydia Grace experienced: she was farmed out to care for her arthritic grandmother when she was about ten years old.
So for me the book was a sweetly nostalgic trip.
I returned the book tonight, but not before going up to my community garden plot and picking a little bouquet of cosmos, zinnias and marigolds for the little girl whose book I had borrowed.
By the way, and this is for those of you who know the book, this Uncle Jim smiles.
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated delightfully by David Small, published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux.