I’m very excited to be doing my very first audiobook blog tour for The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White, so big thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my audio copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
A love story about grief, OCD, and dirt
Tilly Silverberg is rebuilding her life with her young son, Isaac, one potted-up plant at a time. Since her husband’s death, gardening has become her livelihood and her salvation. Hiding out in the North Carolina forest, she wants only to be left alone with Isaac and her greenhouse.
New to the area, successful software developer James Nealy needs a garden. On a solitary mission to reclaim his life from irrational obsessions and relentless compulsions, he has a plan: to conquer his greatest fear. Dirt. One glimpse—or two—of Tilly’s garden, and he knows she holds the key. But when he asks her to take him on as a client, she refuses.
After a family emergency pulls Tilly and Isaac back to her native England, she’s quietly happy, because nothing has changed in her childhood village. Or has it? Her first love is unexpectedly single, her mother is scheming, and her best friend is keeping secrets. Then James appears on her doorstep.
Tenuous at first, but gradually taking root, James and Tilly forge an unlikely bond. As they work together to rescue a garden choked by neglect, they unearth each other’s secrets, each other’s fears, each other’s hopes—and maybe, a shared second chance.
I do listen to quite a lot of audiobooks in the car but my taste in aural literature tends towards thrillers, which I find make journeys pass quite quickly with their tension and short chapters, so this was a bit of a departure for me as far as audiobooks are concerned and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it.
It is a very long book to listen to, and definitely very different to my thrillers as there is a long of internal dialogue from the characters and the pace of the story is quite slow and languorous, like the Carolina summer where the story starts. However, the pace of the writing was perfect for the story which tells the tale of a timid, blossoming relationship between bereaved Tilly and James, plagued and tormented by his OCD. Once I got used to the slower pace, I was completely enthralled by the story.
There are two narrators for the book, one telling the story fromTilly’s perspective and one from James’s, so it was very easy to tell whose point of view we were hearing at any given time. It was well done, and I think it was necessary because, given how much internal musings there are in the story, it would have been quite difficult to follow them whilst listening if there had been a single narrator.
This is a really beautiful story exploring the relationship dynamics between two damaged people and how they recognise things they need in one another. There are further complications involving extended family with internal tensions and old, unresolved relationships that add layer upon layer of texture to the tales of our internal, human stressors and difficulties. The book is a beautiful exploration of the human condition with complex but sympathetic characters and a beautiful setting that provides the ideal metaphorical backdrop for the issues dealt with in the book.
The reason I mostly listen to thrillers in audio format is that I find it difficult to fully appreciate the nuances of language and construction of the more literary novel when I am listening to, rather than reading them. When I am reading, I will often go back to read and re-read and highlight beautiful sentences or passages, to fully wring the meaning and emotion from the words. I find this more difficult to do with an audiobook and worry that I am missing some subtlety or impact in the language. I think this is a book I would like to go back and read in a physical format to make sure I have fully appreciated it, but this may well be a personal quirk of mine and should not put anyone else off listening to the audiobook.
I thought The Unfinished Garden was a rich and beautiful story, full of emotion and complexity and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The audio version is very well done and I would highly recommend it if you enjoy this genre in audio format. I will definitely go back and re-read this book in a physical format.
The Unfinished Garden is out now and you can get the audiobook here.
To read some alternative reviews of this audiobook, check out the tour stops on the poster below:
About the Author
Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Born in England, she works and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her family. Her novels include: The Unfinished Garden, which won the Golden Quill for Best First Book; The In-Between Hour, a SIBA Okra Pick; The Perfect Son, a Goodreads Choice Awards Semi-finalist; Echoes of Family, a WFWA Star Award Finalist; and The Promise Between Us, a 2018 Nautilus Award Winner.
Barbara is an OCD advocate for the nonprofit A2A Alliance, which promotes advocacy over adversity.
Connect with Barbara:
Facebook: Barbara Claypole White