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The Heirloom Garden

The Heirloom Garden, May 2020
by Viola Shipman

Graydon House
Featuring: Iris Maynard; Abby Peterson
384 pages
ISBN: 1525804618
EAN: 9781525804618
Kindle: B07QWXFKXG
Trade Size / e-Book
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"A beautiful garden is a retreat, but isolation hurts the soul"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Heirloom Garden
Viola Shipman

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted September 7, 2020

Women's Fiction Contemporary

This women’s fiction story is on a theme I’ve read a few times recently; a woman has shut herself away from a world which seems to have harmed her or taken those she loved. In this case, Iris Maynard has been part of the extensive dig for victory movement during WWII. The pleasure she gains from growing good food on the former baseball park is cut off when word arrives that her husband won’t be returning. THE HEIRLOOM GARDEN of her own home becomes her retreat.

Abby Peterson, her husband Cory and young daughter Lily arrive to rent a house backing on to Lake Michigan in 2003. The wide views and abundance of natural play space provide an ideal setting for Lily to spread her wings and Abby to work developing marine paint for boats. Cory is not so easy to suit; he’s traumatised by his Iraq War experience and can’t work, relate to neighbours or care properly for his daughter. Despite herself, the now elderly Iris becomes drawn into Lily’s orbit, as an adult presence for the little girl.

I enjoyed particularly the descriptions and scents of the flowers, such as lilac and peony, and the care which went into growing them. If you want to surround yourself mentally in summer flowers, this is a good book. We see the characters’ lives develop in two time periods. Cory’s trauma and Iris’s continued grief are parallel, both continuing to live in a past which is destroying their present. The author’s respect for servicemen in both wars comes across strongly, and at the end she relates a real-life case which helped her write this story.  Cory sets himself a quest, and on the way, he is working towards a recovery, so we can see him as a hero.   

I’m not the only one to have felt recently that the enforced lockdown and reduced social contact had made me less inclined to socialise, especially among strangers. Imagine, then, a lockdown which lasted years, behind personally chosen high fences, surrounded by what seemed a worthwhile garden but was giving pleasure only to one person. Viola Shipman has created a surprisingly timely tale, and we need to pay attention to how we value and spend time with our senior members of society. THE HEIRLOOM GARDEN is finally shown to be of benefit to the wider community, but we have to first put in the effort. We have to want to understand the gardener.

Learn more about The Heirloom Garden


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.


What do you think about this review?


1 comment posted.

Re: A beautiful garden is a retreat, but isolation hurts the soul

Awesome review, which gives reason for me to make this book a
must read as I to have had many losses and I'm all alone in
this world now and from the review I feel like I know exactly
what Iris Maynard has gone through and is still going through
in life.
(Robert Young 1:32pm September 9, 2020)

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