Editor’s Note: The following is a book review in our “Check It Out” series about Leota’s Garden written by Francine Rivers and published by Tyndale House in 1999
by Barbara Moland
Leota’s garden is no longer a place of beauty. At 84 years she is separated from her children by broken relationships. At this lonely time in her life the garden that she had loved, cared for, prayed and worshipped in has gone into severe disrepair. Unable to work in the garden or keep up her home she struggles day after day to just make it.
Leota’s granddaughter Annie, always seeking God’s direction in her new post high school life, has been kept from knowing anything about Leota. All the while seeking to honor and respect her mother, Annie decides to find her grandmother, in spite of the fear she has for what may come of finding her.
Very gradually over many months of carefully connecting with her grandmother, amid several intertwining relationships, Annie is able to turn Leota’s garden into a place of great beauty. In fact her house and neighborhood becomes a changed place. On her grandmother’s passing Annie is surprisingly awarded ownership of the home. Charting her course in life one step at a time, trusting God to lead her, she moves forward as Francine Rivers’ Christian fiction novel comes to a close.
Several topics involving relationships between/among people surface in Leota’s Garden:
- parenting (parents goals for the child/child’s gifts, interests)
- choosing a life partner
- perils of war and those suffering mental illness as a result
- misjudgments between generations, between countries/cultures, and between pastor and parishioner
- neighborhood relationships
- child care and nurturing…and much more.
- And surely again and again, the shining relationship between a believer and her Savior.
Francine Rivers, a prolific writer of Christian fiction, is very skilled in writing realistically about personal feelings and struggles. Faith thoughts which are italicized throughout the book, reveal angry feelings, yet confident freedom. For example:
“Oh, God, if Mother doesn’t come now, I’ll go and drag her by the hair to the hospital.”
Leota’s witty, somewhat tough personality was enjoyable. It reminded me again and again of a loving, yet blunt personality of an 85 year old friend of mine.
At times in the novel’s assumptions spoke too loudly. For example, the assumption that if Annie chose to persue art, this choice would negate the possibilities of a liberal arts education. Also, I found the length of time and details portraying Nora’s biases and personal hang-ups overly redundant.
Perhaps this season we who are gardeners can realize with Leota:
“… well, the garden was a refuge where I could work out my sorrows and frustrations and have joy poured back into me.”