The Night Garden, Lisa Van Allen
Published October 7th 2014 by Ballantine Books
Paperback, 352 pages
Nestled in the bucolic town of Green Valley in upstate New York, the Pennywort farm appears ordinary, yet at its center lies something remarkable: a wild maze of colorful gardens that reaches beyond the imagination. Local legend says that a visitor can gain answers to life’s most difficult problems simply by walking through its lush corridors.
Yet the labyrinth has never helped Olivia Pennywort, the garden’s beautiful and enigmatic caretaker. She has spent her entire life on her family’s land, harboring a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. But when her childhood best friend, Sam Van Winkle, returns to the valley, Olivia begins to question her safe, isolated world and wonders if she at last has the courage to let someone in. As she and Sam reconnect, Olivia faces a difficult question: Is the garden maze that she has nurtured all of her life a safe haven or a prison?
When I started The Night Garden I almost could have believed I was reading a Sarah Addison Allen book, but it quickly became a story all its own. I loved the idea of the Pennywort Farm, where you can just be given the answers to your hard questions if you wait long enough in the maze. I just couldn’t love Olivia Pennywort herself. As she was described as kind of unapproachable to the townspeople she felt that way to me as a reader as well. I liked her more as her walls came down and she began to act like more of a real person and act for herself. I liked Sam much more and I was definitely rooting for him throughout-even when I wasn’t sure Olivia deserved him.
I don’t want to give away Olivia’s secret-but that was cool! I thought this twist by Van Allen was going to have an easier answer and I was gratified that Olivia and Sam had to work harder for their romance. Also wow! This got way steamier than I was anticipating! I loved how the Garden became a character itself that Olivia and Sam had to work with to find a way to be together.
When the book was building up the question of whether Olivia and Sam could be together for so long I wanted more out of the answer in the end. It felt like the ending was rushed which did not go along with the whimsical style. Still Van Allen has promise and I will definitely try her first book and keep my eye out for future publications. The writing was lovely and flowery to fit the scene and if you enjoy magical realism I definitely think you should try the Night Garden.
Thank you Ballantine Books and edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!