Hyperion, $6.50, ISBN 0-786-88952-7
Contemporary Fiction, 2000 (Reissue)
Night Gardening is a short book (barely 220 pages) about love. It is also a magical story about rediscovering life after 60. That’s right – both main characters are not your usual virile studs and svelte beauties.
Tristan Mallory moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to revamp his client’s garden. His neighbor happens to be widow Maggie Flaherty who is recovering from a stroke. To regain her movement and speech abilities, Maggie has to take painful exercises. Among them, she works in her garden. And when Tristan spies her working on the garden through a hole on the wall separating them, he falls in love with her.
Soon they too begin working together in Maggie’s garden. Ahem. I mean the garden garden, in case I didn’t make that clear. Away from Maggie’s therapist and her busybody children, they learn the erotic side of gardening.
I love Maggie and Tristan. Brave people who move on with their lives despite the bad deal life dealt them. Tristan survived a marriage that somehow just peters out despite both his and his wife’s best intentions. Maggie’s late husband was an alcoholic and her children are gleefully following their father’s footsteps. These are people who have loved and lost, but dare to risk their hearts again.
And their relationship is written in simple, unsentimental, yet heartwarming style that I am just drawn into the secret rendezvous between these two people. Although I admit sometimes the simple narrative style can grate slightly – little is actually shown of their thoughts, everything is mostly told. But still, Night Gardening is a nice, light, breezy, and enjoyable tale to savor.
EL Swann is the pseudonym of award-winning author of children’s books Kathryn Lansky, by the way.