BROKEN HOMES & GARDENS: A Novel ~Rebecca Kelley
Broken Homes and Gardens is one of the nicest love stories I have read in a long time. I am not sure if it is because the timing was just right, or if this good read was just the refreshing amount of quirky, definitely west coast, or exactly why, but I just so enjoyed reading this first novel by Ms. Kelley. Most of the book takes place in Portland, Oregon, which is known for its interesting outlook on life and it captures just the right amount of the “unique” for which this city is known. Joanna has found a spot that just suits her and she is blossoming, all be it slowly, into her own true self and undoing her childhood programming which no longer serves her future.
Joanna is having trouble with commitment and is a person whose values are challenged after her parents divorce and her mother’s consequential inability to cope with her decisions and her emotions. Joanna stayed home to care for her mother and attempts to shield herself from heartbreak of any kind. She decides to come home from her teaching assignment in Europe and heads to her sister’s apartment laundry room to move in and get a vision of her future. Her first commitment is to a potted tomato plant she cares for out on the apartment balcony.
Laura, the older sister, was off at college during the parent’s split and seems to be happy being a teacher in Portland and enjoying her life. She persuades Joanna to attend a party at her friend’s home and Joanna realizes that Laura is going to marry Ted and that Malcolm, his roommate, is uniquely suited to her. Malcolm leaves the next day for a 2-year life in the Peace Corp. They begin writing letters and finding each other through their correspondence. They also date other people. Joanna explores more relationships and goes to graduate school, finding a job at the community college.
The relationship is on-again and then off-again and when Joanna purchases a needy house Malcolm becomes her roommate. I thought the part of the story where Joanna starts her work on her new house, by digging out a garden spot in her new yard was just delightful and even made me laugh out loud. Here is a woman with a crumby, dirty kitchen, wallpaper peeling off the walls and no furniture and her first endeavors are to go out to the yard in winter and attempt to dig a garden spot – I could just capture the image in my mind’s eye.
Joanna’s relationship rules are very interesting, clever and just kept a smile in my heart and on my lips. There were such real moments in Joanna’s experience and outcomes. I liked that we were privy to her inner thinking and we could know the process of her changing. So many women do not know what they “want” but are often not willing to do the work to overcome their stuck points. It is quite a journey but Joanna succeeds in figuring out what she wants and how to reach out and grab hold.
About the author: (from the book)
“Rebecca Kelly grew up in Carson City, Nevada, wandered for a few years, and eventually landed in Portland, where she teaches writing at Oregon College of Art and Craft. She is the co-author of THE ECO-NOMINCAL BABY GUIDE. BROKEN HOMES AND GARDENS is her first novel.
TLC Book Tours sent me an e-copy of this book for review and it made me feel happy to enjoy this book cover to cover. I think you will enjoy it also. It is definitely not a Southern or East Coast Romance; rather fresh and distinctive.