Ruby Hummingbird comes to the blog today with a story of secrets and friendships, and how one re-enters life with
The Garden of Lost Memories
“And a little child shall lead them.” ~ Isaiah 11:6
Simple statement, but wholly truth in this story of Elsie and Billy, and the changes and struggles that brought them together and tore them apart. For the past two decades or more, Elsie has been a virtual recluse: uncomfortable with people, speaking to her dead mother, living a life dependent on schedules, tick boxes and few surprises. Raised and exclusively doted on by her mother, Elsie’s life was constrained and confined, but for a few shining moments in her late teens. Homeschooled, with no friends outside of her mother, she is a very clear example of what happens when your life has been whittled down to one of isolation and friendlessness. Until Billy and his mother Samantha moved in suddenly one day into the house next door.
Ten year old Billy isn’t thrilled with leaving his friends and the ‘action’ of London behind. When whisked off in the wee hours by his mother he was, understandably, full of questions. But a new school where he’s become the target of an older bully, his mother’s working all hours, no television, no bike or mobile: he’s also angry and frustrated. But when a sitter is needed, Samantha very bravely encounters a not so nice Elsie to ask if she’d be wiling. Understanding the loneliness and need apparent in the two, Elsie agrees – but the time is torture for a ten year old boy, with the only “treat” being custard cremes – the biscuit he despises. Everything is rather stilted until Elsie, with her strange ways, allows Billy into the back garden – and the magic happens…..
The story is a slow-grower: we see Elsie as she moves from unconcerned with her own behavior in the broad sense, to starting to try and be nicer, engaging people tentatively as the relationship with Billy develops. Partly from fear, partly a result of her not being ‘socialized’ as a child, Elsie’s steps forward are often clumsy and wrong-footed, and she’s quick to take offense or move off in her own sphere leaving others feeling shorted. Meanwhile, Billy has managed to show some skill at gardening and drawing, both praised highly by Elsie, and while things aren’t great – he’s finding a place for himself. A story that takes plenty of time to develop where the usually ‘minding her own business” Elsie steps in and laterally saves both Billy and his mother from danger – the back and forth as growth brings fear and retreat, harsh words are exchanged, and Elsie is forced to face her own fears and shortcomings if she hopes to not face yet another loss. Engrossing if a bit long to get wholly engaging, Hummingbird’s ability to craft a flawed but growing character is on full display here.
Title: The Garden of Lost Memories
Author: Ruby Hummingbird
Genre: British, Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Depression, Family Saga, Friendship, Grief, Mystery Elements, Second Chance, Setting: Britain, Small Town
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 27 March, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 25 minutes
Get Your Copy: Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Google ♦Audible
Just because you feel ordinary doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary to someone else.
Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy-covered, lavender-scented garden.
Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.
If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to.
But there is always more to people than meets the eye…
Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home.
Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…
This moving tale is for anyone who has ever felt the pang of loneliness, or worried that their broken heart might never be the same again. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Keeper of Lost Things and The Library of Lost and Found will fall head over heels for this life-affirming novel that shows us that if you’re willing to take a risk, happiness is only ever a heartbeat away.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.