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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tending Roses

**** Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate. Women's fiction.

This is the first book in a series, and I've read and enjoyed the second two, but forgot about the first one until I was browsing through the bargain bin at either Amazon or B&N--I'm not sure which one, because it's not on sale at either one now. Hmmm. Maybe I got it from Half.com.

Anyway. Kate Bowman is on maternity leave from a high-pressure job, so when Grandma Rose starts a fire through her forgetfulness, the family decides Kate and her husband Ben, who's an architect and can "work anywhere", should go stay with Grandma Rose and convince her to move into a retirement home.

Grandma Rose is a bit cantankerous and persnickety, and is prone to heartbreaking and alarming bouts of forgetfulness, but she also has a unique sense of humor and the wisdom she's gleaned in her long life.

It's mostly Kate's story, as she goes from frustration with Grandma Rose and eagerness to return to her old life, to a real affection for and understanding of the old woman, and the big old house. She periodically finds a journal lying around, in Grandma Rose's handwriting, and each time there's a new story of Grandma Rose's life, but after she's read it, it disappears until the next time.

Kate was more understanding of Grandma Rose than I think I would have been, but I really enjoyed Kate's journey. She went from buying in to the yuppie dream at the beginning of the book to understanding what really mattered to her at the end, helped along by Grandma Rose's advice: "maybe you should want less." Ben had the same journey, but it was a little easier for him, I think, since his focus was on architecture rather than on the lifestyle. Too, his life didn't change as much as Kate's.

The secondary characters were vivid, unique, and realistic--the other family members, who are concerned that Grandma Rose is manipulating Kate, and the young girl Dell who Grandma Rose takes under her wing.

It's a little self-consciously "heart-warming," something I don't particularly enjoy, but the characters made up for that somewhat, and since I'd read the subsequent books in the series, I already knew how some of the more emotional scenes would turn out, so they weren't as tear-inducing as they might otherwise have been.


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