Originally posted on Leah’s Books.
In the Shadow Garden
- Author: Liz Parker
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: September 13, 2022
- Publisher: Forever
Thank you to Forever and Angie Man for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: mention of abuse, violence, blood, death of a parent, murder, grief, trauma
The richly atmospheric and luminous debut about three generations of women whose magic is as much a part of life as love, death, and the rich, dark earth beneath their feet…
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 can 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 disappear. 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 out love, treachery, and the true nature of their power.
As soon as the weather cools off, the leaves start to change, and I can find all things pumpkin in every store, my reading tastes change over as well. I start wanting to read more mystery, more paranormal, and books with darker themes. And this one fit the bill perfectly. It’s part mystery, part romance, and all witchy, and I loved the hell out of it.
To start off with, Parker’s writing is absolutely stunning. I fell in love with her writing style immediately—it’s descriptive without being overly so, lyrical and beautiful, almost like it has a magic of its own.
“Rows of black cornstalks stretched as far as Addison could see—the dark corn the Bonners grew for their bourbon—and wisps of inky silk bled from them, up into clouds of gloom.”
It’s told from the perspective of various characters, giving the reader insight into what is going on for all of the major players in the story. I think I was most surprised to see that even the shadow garden has a voice, which made sense once I read the chapter, since so much of what happens centers around the shadow garden itself.
The Haywood and Bonner families have a serious rivalry going on, not quite at Hatfield/McCoy level, but close. The matriarch of the Haywood family (Maura) refuses to engage at all, while the youngest Haywood is more open to trying to work things out, and Sylvia, the matriarch of the Bonner family, keeps reaching out to try and make things right. But there’s a lot at work behind the scenes.
Two of the main characters are reckoning with a lost love and trying to come to terms with it, while not exactly giving up on the feelings for different reasons. Plus, there’s all kinds of other complicating factors going on for everyone. Irene is getting conflicting messages in her tea leaf readings. So are Addison and Maura. Addison’s Haywood magic doesn’t work right. The annual memory harvest is coming up. Things aren’t right with the shadow garden, and no one is sure why. And no one remembers what happened that one summer in 1997, although there’s one person who is haunted by one thing that they saw.
I enjoyed the way the family relationship and budding romance was juxtaposed with the mystery of what happened during that mysterious summer and the mystery of what’s wrong with the shadow garden. It kept pulling me back to the book, whenever I was unlucky enough to have to put it down. The world felt full of magic, and it made me long to be able to go to a place like Yarrow, Kentucky, and experience just a little touch of that myself.
Overall, this was a fantastic read for me. I loved the way it balanced the slow easing of pain over time while not being able to fully remove it, against the full removal of painful memories, but at what cost? It made me think about what we give up when we choose the easy road, and what we learn from doing things the slow and difficult way, and how that applies to our own life in general. The story was a beautiful one, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as both a metaphor and an escape from life at the same time.
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