Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Title: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


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…



Brimming with humor and strong emotion, The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman is an incredibly heartwarming novel of healing.

In the four years since her husband Dan’s tragic death, Lilian Girvan has made a comfortable life for herself and her daughters, seven year old Annabel and five year old Clare. Her younger sister Rachel has been a life-saver and the two women are extremely close.  Lilian is a text-book illustrator whose latest assignment requires she take a six week gardening course. The class is made up of a very diverse group of people who unexpectedly become friends as they work together each week.  But most surprising is Lilian’s unanticipated (and unwelcome) attraction to their instructor Edward Bloem. Not at all sure she is ready to act on their mutual desire, Lilian undergoes a great deal of soul-searching as she tries to figure out if she will ever be ready (or willing) to risk her heart again.

Lilian literally fell apart in the months after Dan’s death and although she still misses him with every fiber of her being, she and her girls have settled into a routine that works well for them. The gardening class is just the first of many unexpected changes she will contend with over the next several weeks. However, the most life altering  transformation she is confronted with is her somewhat shocking attraction to Edward. Trying to sort through her confusing emotions is overwhelming but she has plenty of help from Rachel, her former in-laws and her therapist.  Most importantly, Edward is willing to give Lilian as much time and space she needs in order to decide whether or not she is ready to enter into a relationship.

Rachel is fully committed to helping Lilian and her nieces and they are firmly enmeshed in one another’s lives. However, when it comes to their love lives, the sisters could not be more different. Rachel flits from man to man and she has absolutely no interest in settling down.  With her casual attitude towards dating, how will Rachel react when she finally meets a man who could be “the one” for her?

The scenes with the various people from the gardening class are an absolute delight.  Each of the attendees are from different backgrounds and Lilian is quick to make assumptions about them. She is taken off guard when many of her assessments turn out to be inaccurate after she takes the time to get to know them. These friendships are absolutely priceless and they are incredibly supportive of each other.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is a positively captivating novel that is chock full of eclectic characters, wry humor and heartrending observations.  Abbi Waxman deftly balances the sadder elements of the storyline with hysterically funny dialogue and scenes. Lilian’s growth is tremendous as she is forced out the reliable rut she has created for herself and her girls. A charming, insightful and sometimes poignant novel that I absolutely LOVED and highly recommend to readers to contemporary fiction.

1 Comment

Filed under Abbi Waxman, Berkley, Contemporary, Review, The Garden of Small Beginnings, Women's Fiction

One Response to Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

  1. Timitra

    Sounds good, thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy