Thirty-something Lilian Girvan, mother of two young girls, is a widow who saw her husband die in a car crash 50 feet from their home. But Waxman’s debut novel, far from sad and depressing, is full of wry humor and a cleareyed view of how life keeps offering good things.
After Lilian lost her husband three years ago, she had a breakdown, ending up in a treatment facility for several months while her devoted sister, Rachel, stepped in to help with the girls. But all this is in the past, and she’s back to making her living as an illustrator and picking her way carefully past the pitfalls of fresh widowhood and piles of toys in the living room. Her company is closing Lilian’s department, leaving her with one final assignment: to illustrate a series of vegetable gardening books for Bloem Company, obliging her to attend a six-week Saturday morning gardening class taught by Edward Bloem. The diverse group quickly bonds over the pleasure of planting seeds and the hope this inspires. And a tingle of interest begins between Lilian and Edward. For readers who see where this is headed, of course! But anticipating a happy ending is like waiting for dessert. There is much soul-searching on Lilian’s part and a number of side stories involving the other members of the group. Many life lessons are learned in the garden, and not just by Lilian. The plot is straightforward, but it is Waxman’s skill at characterization that lifts this novel far above being just another "widow finds love” story. Clearly an observer, Waxman has mastered the fine art of dialogue as well. Characters ring true right down to Lilian’s two daughters, who often steal the show.
This debut begs for an encore from Waxman.