In the Shadow Garden
by Liz Parker
Release Date: September 13, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
There’s something magical about Yarrow, Kentucky. The three empathic witches of the Haywood family are known for their shadow garden—from strawberries that taste like chocolate to cherry tomatoes imbued with the flavors of basil and oregano. Their magic can cure any heartache, and the fruits of their garden bring a special quality to the local bourbon distillery. On one day every year, a shot of Bonner bourbon will make your worst memory disappear. But the Haywoods will never forget the Bonners’ bitter betrayal.
Twenty years ago, the town gave up more than one memory; they forgot an entire summer. One person died. One person disappeared. And no one has any recollection of either.
As events from that fateful summer start to come to light, there must be a reckoning between the rival Haywood and Bonner families. But untangling the deep roots of this town’s terrible secrets will expose more than they could ever imagine about love, treachery, and the true nature of their power.
Magical realism is a tricky thing. In many books, I can enjoy the concept while being fully aware that it isn't real. But then there are those few, shall we say "magical," books where I willingly suspend disbelief, immersing myself in all the story has to offer, knowing logically that it's fiction but believing with everything in me that it's real. In the Shadow Garden is one of those books.
Parker's writing is perfectly pitched, with a dreamy - almost mystical - quality that drew me in, kept me enthralled, and left me with the firm certainty that somewhere in Kentucky there is an actual Shadow Garden, in a small town shrouded in gloom, where grief is softened, traditions are revered, bourbon flows, and magical produce thrives under the gentle care of multiple generations of Haywood women.
The characters are engaging, with interesting backs stories, tangled relationships, and more than a few obstacles ahead. I love that the story is told from different generational perspectives. It gives the reader views into the past and present, offering a more complete picture of events that led to current situations. The family dynamics, a key element of the story, are realistic and believable, not only between the Haywoods and Bonners but within each family as well, and volatile enough to keep me eagerly flipping pages to find out what was going to happen next.
Nothing is as it seems as the author takes the characters, as well as the reader, along a twisted path laced with magical mysteries, unexpected revelations, betrayal, danger, and the possibility of love reclaimed. I was fully invested before I reached the end of Chapter One and read late into the night, finishing the book somewhere around 3:30 AM. Then, when I woke up the next morning, I went back and re-read my favorite parts, savoring the various nuances that were so expertly rendered. It's a book I can see myself reading again and again, probably each fall, a perfect time to lose myself in the murky, magical, mysteries of Yarrow, Kentucky.
In the Shadow Garden is Liz Parker's debut novel, a fact that I find difficult to believe. I was sure I was reading a book written by a well-seasoned author with numerous publications under her writing belt. I really hope she's a fast writer because I plan to buy every book she publishes...and I'm not getting any younger. ;-)
Do you enjoy magical realism in books you read or movies you watch?
Do you have any favorite books/movies/TV shows that feature magic or witches?
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