The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

The Garden of Small Beginnings

Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman weaves a story filled with laugh-out-loud humor about a widowed mom, her two adorable little girls, a loyal sister, gardening tips, and an irresistible garden instructor.

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In the spirit of A Man Called Ove and Good Grief—a poignant, funny, and utterly believable novel about life and loss.
 
Give grief a chance . . .
 
Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
 
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
 
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

READERS GUIDE INCLUDED


Advance Galley Reviews

For a novel about a young woman dealing with her grief, this book is hilarious. I read it in just two sittings and found it difficult to put the book down the first time. I was reading while my husband was watching basketball, and he claimed my continual laughter was distracting. (Don't worry, my response was "get over it".) Will definitely be looking for more by Waxman!

I really enjoyed this book about a woman who is trying to move past her grief and get on with her life after the death of her husband. I loved the relationship between Lili and her sister Rachel; very realistic and caring. I also enjoyed the relationships between the members of the gardening class. Who knew that a book about grief could be so funny?

Thanks to First to Read for the advance copy of The Garden of Small Beginnings. This is a charming story of Lillian, the young widowed mother of two little girls. Widowed for three years, traumatized by the loss of her husband, Lillian has been through a breakdown and a difficult path back to functioning with a tremendous amount of support from her sister but now must face the loss of her job as an illustrator. Lillian's last assignment is to work with a gardening company drawing boutique vegetables. One condition of that employment is that she join a group of wanna be gardeners at the local botanical garden creating a garden. Lillian takes her sister and her daughters and together they start to grow a brand new, happy life. This will be a wonderful Book Club selection and does include a Readers Guide.

I really wanted to like this book. Really, why start a book without the hope of appreciating it? Unfortunately, I found the characters forced and the dialog contrived. One of the few authentic moments came when the main character, Lilian, was describing the smells lingering on her deceased husbands clothing. In this passage, the character was able to convey a heartfelt moment.

Most of the book, especially the dialogue, read like a comedy-drama in the vein of "Gilmore Girls". However, the sections about Lilian's reaction to Dan's death and her resulting breakdown were moving. Overall, I found this to be a quick and easy read.

Meh... I had a REAL hard time getting into this book. I felt distracted and couldn't pay attention to it. I have a feeling I know how it will turn out but I just couldn't get into it enough to continue to find out. A lot of dialogue back and forth made the story move slow.

Funny and quirky. Liked the characters and story flow. Very entertaining read. Dealt with loss and Lilian's journey through the loss.

I loved this book! I loved it so much, I couldn't wait to recommend it to my book club and preorder a copy for my mom. The Garden of Small Beginnings was quirky and funny. I adored the characters, especially Lili and Clare. I felt like they were relatable and well developed. The book dealt with living after loss in a great manner. It was heartbreaking to see Lili realize how much other people were affected by losing her husband, Dan. It's so easy to get stuck in your own perspective so it was devastating to see how much her daughter still grieved but couldn't remember her dad's face since her mother took down his pictures to maintain her own mental state. Another thing I loved about this book was the concept of not judging a person based on their outward appearance. It was uplifting to see Lili learn this lesson through learning more about her fellow gardening classmates.

A quirky, funny book. I enjoyed the characters and the story, both of which were very relatable and easy to grow fond of. The only complaint I had is there are several instances where the characters use of profanity or crudeness doesn't seem to ring true.

A touching story about families, widowhood and how to move on with one's life after a sudden and tragic death. Lillian, the "heroine" in the story is a widow with 2 girls. She struggles with getting up and moving on with her life, but through a gardening class she learns that life, does indeed, go on and while you never forget your loved ones that you lost, there is still a chance to grow and have a happy life. I really enjoyed the book and would consider recommending it for my book group

I absolutely loved following Lilian in her journey of trying to keep her shit together while grieving over the loss of her husband. She has an amazing network of family and friends that make you believe in humanity again. She may not see how beautiful and wonderful she is, but she has a ton of people who see it for her.

Lilian is grieving over the loss of her beloved husband for the last three years. She was suddenly left all alone, with two girls and without the love of her life, her friend and companion, Dan. She is working as an illustrator in a publishing house and part of her job turns out to be a gardening class every Saturday, as part of a coming project. She is happy to take it, along with her two girls and her sister, Reichel. Reichel is the most supportive sister out there. She has taken over responsibility of the kids when Lili was not in position to think of anything but Dan’s loss. She is very close to her sister and the little girls, as if forming a family of their own. She has also lost a friend when Dan was killed in that accident, but even though she is the youngest sister, she was the strongest one. Lilian, Reichel and the girls, show up in the Los Angeles Botanical Garden one Saturday morning, to learn about plants and make new friends. This class is like nothing they ‘ve done before. Abbi Waxman has done a terrific job creating the characters of this book! Lili is sad and tip toeing on madness, because of all the sudden grief she had to go through, by witnessing her husband’s accident and not being able to do one thing to help him come back to life. The whole emotional frustration she has been through is visible in between the lines and through her thoughts. It is a very sensitive subject to write and read on, therefore sometimes tears come to the reader’s eyes, yet it is very supportive in learning on how to process all this pain. The main character’s feelings are well described and it could be anyone in her shoes, even though nobody wishes that to people. The author has created a very supportive gardening class, showing that people from different backgrounds, can have common interests and become friends with people they would never talk to let alone spare a glance. However, when there is good will all along and the innocence of little children, solid bridges are being built and friendships that can last forever. Apart from the grief and the sadness, the author put a lot of love and humor in it as well. There are some really funny scenes that will make the reader to laugh and feel a part of it. Not only that, but given that it is about human relationships, the reader can also be frustrated a bit. Anything can happen in life, all we need to do is take it in, and if we fall, we just simply need to stand again! We cannot control everything, neither can we help everyone stay untouched by unpleasant situations. But what we can do, is offer our shoulder for a friend to cry, give them a big hug and a little push to move forward! The whole book is easy to love, as everyone in it. They could be real people living among us. They could be our neighbors or completely strangers. They could become our friends!

Loved this story! It is a mixture of sweet and sour, or perhaps the sour comes first as Lili is still coping with the sudden death of her husband and her life as a single mom. The story telling is artful, tip toeing to the edge of sadness, pulling back a little and makes you laugh and sigh. Each chapter starts with real gardening advice, with a seedling or two of a snarky comment. Should Lili move on with her life? Life keeps moving with or without us, and I for one wanted to jump into the story and give her a polite shove in the right direction. A good story is one you get lost in, this is a good story.

I absolutely loved this book. I was a little skeptical at first as to how this book would be since it was about a woman's life after losing her husband however it was not what I expected. Lilian lost her husband shortly after her youngest daughter was born to a vehicle accident right outside their home. This book showed her struggle with accepting his death, her grief and how she bounced back from her depression to help her daughters all with the help of her sister Rachel. It shows how she was eventually able to move on with her life after that tragic day. Who knew taking a gardening class would be that interesting and that so many relationship would come out of the class.

This book was well written but I did not enjoy it. It is a case "of me, not the book." It did have some humor but for me, it did not override the dark theme of the husband's death. I liked the parts with the gardening class but the every day parts of Lily's life were too sad for me.

How is a book about a widow going through the grieving process one of the best books I've ever read, and so screaming hysterically funny? I have no idea but Abbi Waxman knows how to do that and does it better than any author I think I've ever come across. I drove my husband nuts when we were supposed to be reading quietly in bed before sleep. Ya, quiet is not going to happen when reading this one. I laughed so hard and so often and had to share all the funny bits with him. He was probably glad when I finished it so he could actually read at bedtime instead of listening to me howl about whale genitalia. Oh my gosh, just thinking about it has me cracking up again. However, even though this was a hysterically funny read, it was also genuinely real and heartbreaking and beautiful in its honesty about death and love and grieving. And I loved that about it too. I loved everything about this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to laugh and cry and close a book so glad you read it. I know I definitely am glad I did.

Abbi Waxman has a way with creating characters. Within the first few pages you truly feel like you know them. The Garden of Small Beginnings focuses on a young, widowed mother and the village it takes to help her become whole again. Waxman uses the metaphor of a newly planted garden to describe life after the loss of a loved one. She does a great job of comparing the two very quietly, not slapping the reader in the face with similarities. Definitely enjoyed this book and will recommend it to others.

I was hooked from the first page. Literally laugh-out-loud funny and so immensely heartfelt you shed tears without realizing it, sometimes on the same page. All the feelings, intensely, command your immediate reaction and spouses will make sure you're ok because you really were just laughing loudly, and now you've wept through a tissue. They will likely give you funny looks, and you won't care because you cannot wait to see what she says next. This was a portrayal of grief that so seriously and hilariously examines the stuggles we all have in whatever capacity that you immediately wonder if your life makes as good of a story. Spoiler alert: It doesn't. An incredibly welcome read, all the same. She's just that good.

I enjoyed The Garden of Small Beginnings immensely. Lilian is a young widow with a small child trying to make it all work. She gets an assignment to work on the illustrations in a gardening book. Little did she know that this assignment would change her life. Her boss makes her take a gardening class so she can be better informed about her upcoming job. I loved all the wonderful characters that she and her son meet in this class. There are a lot of misfits in the class and people with problems but they all just seem to mesh and connect with each other. The Garden of Small Beginnings is an enjoyable story about the power of friendship and support and I loved every minute of it!

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the voice of the main character, Lillian. She is dealing with the loss of her husband and trying to make a life for herself and her children. Grief is so different for everyone and it can be hard to support and be supported by family and friends. This book is one of the most honest books I have read in a long time, a real raw look at working through the pain. While, at the same time, there were parts that made me laughed out loud! Such a fantastic balance!

I was provided with an advanced copy. We are taken on the journey of a young widow who lost her husband in a sudden and tragic way. We get a glimpse into what her marriage was, the horrible accident that took her husband, and her everyday life with her two young daughters. What we learn is Lili is stuck. She is stuck in her grief and stuck in her monotonous daily routine. One day while at work, she was chosen to work on a special project for her firm. Her boss signed her up for a gardening class to help with the process of this project. The diverse and quirky personalities of this group formed a bond and friendships. They learned from one another and grew from one another and slowly, we see Lili become unstuck. For me, this was an enjoyable story but it lacked a little something. I can't put my finger on it, I just wanted more. The characters were well developed, the story told a complete tale, but yet I felt it somehow just sat on the surface and needed a little more depth, variety, something. Lili bored me....I needed her to come to life a little quicker and show us who Lili could be.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I truly enjoyed it. I was attracted to it because of the gardening theme, being an earth child of the 70's. I read it in one sitting, just couldn't put it down! Hard to believe that this the author's debut novel. I hope there are many more. It did not disappoint, the characters were real and quirky just like your own family and friends. Handling the emotional issues was well done and truthful. The writing reminds me of Rosamunde Pilcher. The author deals with everyday issues with ease. A book well worth your time.

Lillian is a young widow and mother of two, slowing waking up from the nightmare of having seen her husband dead moments after his horrific car accident. She has pulled herself slowly from the ashes, surviving a mental breakdown to a life closely appearing normal. But it's a gardening class and an assortment of classmates that help her move from simply surviving to actual living. I enjoyed this novel. It was easy to read and I really liked the random, sometimes funny thoughts that popped into Lillian's head. Even though I grew to really like almost all of the characters and the story, I however feel like I'd read this story before. Not a bad thing, just it was predictable. I'd still recommend this book to people who like a nice easy to read story.

I loved this book. Lili is a widow who find herself in a gardening class as part of a work assignment. She learns about gardening but also finds a menagerie of people that become her friends that are family. She also find a love that honors her late husband while allowing her to continue her life. This book will make you laugh and cry, even in the same chapter.

I really enjoyed this book! I laughed and cried. The characters were great. The relationship between the sisters was so very realistic. The way the gardening class became a little family of their own was nice.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is a surprisingly delightful little tale given that the protagonist is a young widow with two children facing outsourcing of her job. Abbi Waxman manages to conjure an honest and funny plot out of Lili's chaotic life. Waxman also creates a likable and relatable heroine who faces the worst of life with humor and ultimately hope. Each chapter is interspersed with tongue in cheek gardening advice relating the plot point of Lili attending a gardening class to prepare for illustrating a book that her company is bidding on. Throw in a sister, a self absorbed mother, a frantic sister in law and various potential love interests for the women and you have an an enjoyable read. It will be perfect for beach season! I was given this book by Penguins first to read program.

I really enjoyed this book! It was heartwarming and although it deals with grief and the loss of a husband and father, it was laugh out loud funny too. I'm not a gardener but found the tips interesting and funny as well. A great story of love and loss and figuring out it's ok to move on, be happy and enjoy life again!

I really loved the main protagonist in this book. She made me laugh and shed a few tears on occasion. It's one of those books that I have to keep reading to see what happens, but I also want to stop and savor the book instead of rushing through it. The book includes gardening tips, the beginning of love relationships as well as grief in the end of relationships through death and adultery. I would definitely be interested in reading more from this author.

Loved this book. The relationship between the sisters was so true to life. Witty, laugh out loud funny. I didn't want this book to end. Hope Abbi Waxman writes more very soon!!

Abbi Waxman has a fan in me. I zoomed through this book in two days. I couldn't put it down. I was super bummed when I realized this was her debut and that there were no other Abbi Waxman books to devour! It was bitingly funny, darkly hilarious. When the synopsis included that drawing whale genetalia was a highlight for our narrator, I should have known what I was in for, but this book was so much more than I could have hoped for. It is truly a God-given talent when an author can make widowhood this hilarious. The dialogue is snappy and ever-so-witty. The relationship between Lili and Rachel is wonderful. Lili's recounting of her husband's horrible death and subsequent breakdown are heartbreaking. But Waxman's tone and her careful balance between past and present events saved the book from being depressing. I honestly probably could have done without the little "how to grow" blurbs before each chapter, but even some of those got a chuckle out of me. And I'll admit, too, I was a little concerned at first as to how this whole gardening class was going to go; I was afraid it would be endlessly boring. But that motley gardening crew of misfits quickly became one of my favorite parts of the novel. And Edward. Oh, Edward. What a sweetie pie. I was so glad when Lili kissed him in the end. Normally, I would have been frustrated with her for not jumping him the way she wanted to (like Rachel)--like, c'mon girl, it's been three years, let yourself live already--yet it's a testament to Waxman's delivery of Lili's inner turmoil that makes it endearing and believable, and all the more triumphant when Lili jumps that hurtle and makes a move. This is a beautiful, darkly hilarious, endearingly lighthearted, poignant, very real book, and I will be recommending it to EVERYBODY. I will also be anxiously awaiting Waxman's next book. Hurry up and write it already!

Enjoyable book. I cried more than I laughed (I can cry at the drop of a hat). It's a bit of a fluff book in everything falls into place quite easily. New jobs/ new friends/ new love. Every one finds their perfect match. Every one is supportive. But the message is clear for a person who has lost a loved one without the usual "it's time to move on" lecture. With everything that is going on in the main character's life, she does not act like a drama queen. She gets through it. She isn't perfect. She's doing the best she can and with a little help, she keeps her sanity. There's a little bit of everything in this book including a list of questions for those who read it for bookclub.

This book, this book! It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me want to get my hands dirty, in a pot garden first, I think! Thats a plant in a pot, not the kind you smoke! Uhhummm! It has a bit of humor, okay, a lot of satiracal and otherwise guffaw worthy laughs! I caught them from reading this book. Okay, so Lilian's hubby has died, leaving her to raise their children, as well as their dog no easy task either, singlehandedly. We enter the picture several years into this unforeseen twist in her family's lives. Shes got a sister who cooks for her & the children occaisionly and occaisionly cooks up schemes to get Lillian aka Lili, to cook for her. Getting her sister out of the house and into dates, with real men even if they are business clients is always on the menu as well! What else are sisters for? Eventually Lili's boss gives her an assignment which gets her enrolled in a svegetable growing class & involved with a very nice, hubba hubba, gardening instructor whose going to tell her what to do with her dirty hands and her pot! Waggling of my eyebrows is occurring! Thats it! I'm quitting because a reviewer can only be expected to take so many laughs...and to be fair, this book has a lot more than laughs going on! Loss, love and life...that and a lot of growth for every living thing involved...me and you included. Read this book..plant a garden or a single painted pot plot, with the instructions included at the end of each chapter. But you better be ready to laugh until you cry, or vice versa! 5 stars! Reviewed by Linda Karau based on a free ARC, by choice! Rocking & reviewing Grandma, Linda K, Minnesota USA LkaypjLinda Karau

Witty, engaging, heartfelt, and beautifully written. I loved this book! Waxman had me laughing out loud, and I think I would be best friends with this MC. But the author was also able to balance the humor with authentic emotion and insightful treatment of serious themes.

I loved this book! What started off as a tale about a widowed mother and the way her life and the life of her children has changed since she her husband died unexpectedly, became a story about family, healing, forgiveness, friendship, and loyalty. With enough humor to keep this story light for it's emotional and dramatic content, Abbi Waxman worked wonders. It was emotionally charged, romantic, funny, and heart-felt. What I loved most was the relationship between Lili and her two daughters, although the recurring theme that first impressions are not always accurate, was a close second. There was a lot of character development and very interesting relationship dynamics. Would recommend this!

I absolutely adored this book! I never expected to laugh out a loud while reading a book about a young widow with 2 young daughters who take a gardening class. Lili, Rachel, Annabel and Clare are hilarious and very real characters. I love a book that can make me laugh and cry and this one did both. The gardening tips that preceded each chapter were great - they were funny and I actually learned about some things about gardening. The supporting characters were all interesting and well developed as well - you believed all these people liked and needed each other. I highly recommend this book - it isn't typical 'chick lit'- it would make a great book club selection.

Lively and charming, yet tackles weighty issues with grace. Waxman sketches her main character Lili as both vulnerable and strong, making her journey very rewarding to follow. Lili has an odd way of directly addressing the reader at times, which was a little bit jarring at first, but this writing quirk easily made her feel real and personable. The stable of strong secondary and tertiary characters each add a great amount of flavor and fun to the tale, and it was a joy to spend time with all of them. As a bonus, I was able to learn useful information about gardening both through the events of the story and the tips that preceded every chapter.

Abby Walkman spins a tale that is engaging, filled with witty humor and heartfelt grief. Fill your glass with some wine, and settle into a comfy seat to enjoy this engrossing story of a young widowed mother struggles to fine her way back. The characters are charming, vulnerable, and yet strong. Lili finds her self surrounded by a supportive group of strangers that meet through a community gardening class. Strangers that become friends and family to her. Her adorable children breakthrough the barrier to help her face her loss and to open herself to others. She also finds an attraction to the teacher of her gardening class that is both appealing and scary. Will she be able to open her heart on love again? It'll b hard to put this book down. When you are finished, it will be like parting with friends and wanting so to see them again soon.

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed. At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity. After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not… This is a story about grief, survivor’s guilt, love and having the courage to move on from tragedy. Lili Girvan has been in a holding pattern since the death of her husband 4 years before, enveloped in her sadness and grief while feeling guilty that she was the one that lived. With amazing support from her younger sister, Rachel, she is able to live each day and care for her two young daughters – Annabel and Clare (who are so wonderfully portrayed by Waxman). Lili’s mother in law, April, states it best about their loss, “He didn’t leave us on purpose, honey, but he did leave, and that’s all there is to it.” As an illustrator for a textbook publishing company, she is asked to illustrate a vegetable encyclopedia for the Bloem family and has been volunteered to take a Saturday morning gardening class taught by one of the Bloem family members. Lili finds herself attracted to her teacher, Edward, but feels she is still not ready to date despite her attraction to him. Throughout the six week course, Lili develops friendships with her fellow gardening classmates and begins the process of moving on from the loss of her husband and realize it is okay to live her life, even though he has died. Waxman takes an honest look at grief and how it feels to move on. I laughed and cried openly while I read. Although I have never suffered the loss Lili had suffered, through Waxman’s portrayal of Lili, I was living it right along with her. I fell in love with the characters, the story and its telling. Once I began reading this book, I could not put it down. So far I have raved about it to everyone –my family, patrons and staff. I look forward to reading Waxman’s next novel.

A sweet book about love and loss and love rediscovered.

This is a cute book about a young widow with two small girls who is forced to take a gardening class for work and learns about gardening and about falling in love again. While I love Waxman's witty writing and there are several funny scenes, the characters felt a little underdeveloped. I also don't feel that the story went deep enough. I felt like there should have been more detail, particularly about Lili's exchanges with Edward. 3/5 stars.

Even though I am in my mid thirties, and have lived as a single mother in the past, it is sometimes difficult for me to connect with similar characters in novels. They tend to either be experiencing a crisis, and handling it by being too wild, or maudlin, or care for their children too much or not enough. Lillian, the protagonist of Abbi Waxman's novel, has no such issues. She is widowed, has her issues with the situation, but handles it in a way that shows her strength and wit right off the bat. It's refreshing and wonderful to see. There's a Monty Python reference that made me giggle in the middle of a slightly uncomfortable conversation she was having with one of her young daughters. Rachael, her sister, manages to be both supportive and sassy in the best ways. If you like your fiction lively and fun, with a hint of feelings and light drama, then this really is the novel for you. I'll most likely be reading it again, which puts it on a very short list of modern fiction.

 


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