Review: The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman

Title: The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (40s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In her inimitable style, Viola Shipman explores the unlikely relationship between two very different women brought together by the pain of war, but bonded by hope, purpose…and flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today.


The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman is a captivating novel of healing, friendship and love.

In the 1940’s, Iris Maynard is a botanist whose love of flowers was instilled in her by her grandmother and mother.  Married young, Iris and her daughter Mary await the return of husband and father Jon. Following the heartrending loss of Jon, tragedy once again strikes and Iris lavishes all of her love and attention on her heirloom garden. By 2003, Iris is a recluse who lives in her family cottage on Lake Michigan. After renting the house next door to Abby, Cory and Lily Peterson, will Iris allow the troubled family into her life?

Abby is hoping the change in scenery will prove to be beneficial to Cory. Her beloved husband is a mere shadow of the man he was before his deployment to Iraq.  She loves her husband and she feels helpless as she watches him cope with the horrors of war in unhealthy ways. A fortuitous job offer precipitates their move and she loves the small town where they now live. An engineer, Abby is first excited about her new job but she is soon disillusioned as she watches her prized project becomes unrecognizable in her boss’s hands.

Iris spends long days working in her garden. She lovingly cares for each plant and continues to propagate her beloved flowers. She rarely ventures from behind the towering fence she had built decades earlier and she dissuades people from visiting. But young Lily’s bright and inquisitive nature is impossible to resist and Iris enjoys showing her around her beloved garden.  She is also drawn to Abby as she struggles to keep her family together while Cory battles the demons from his time in battle. Iris finds a kindred spirit in Cory and  her quiet presence soothes him as he fights the PTSD that haunts him. Their unexpected bond proves to be healing as they deal with their respective issues.

With beautiful references to flowers,  The Heirloom Garden is a heartfelt novel that is emotionally compelling.  Each of the characters is beautifully developed with relatable problems to overcome. Abby’s situation with her career is still an all too real issue in today’s world. Iris and Cory’s struggles are realistically depicted with gradual success in surmounting their emotional wounds. Young Lily is precocious and an absolute delight.  A wonderful tribute to the military will resonate with readers, Viola Shipman brings this charming small town novel to a poignant and touching conclusion. I adored this  moving story and highly recommend it to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Graydon House, Rated B+, Review, The Heirloom Garden, Viola Shipman, Women's Fiction

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