THE GARDEN OF BEING by Denise and Dolly Arksey Hammerberg


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A mother and daughter’s memoir that uses gardens as an analogy for life.

Co-authors Hammerberg and Arksey share their story of coping with Hammerberg’s stage IV breast cancer diagnosis, navigating treatment and emerging into the encouraging light of remission. Choosing to write the story jointly could provide a unique service to others in similar situations. Unfortunately, the authors insist on clogging the plot with the clumsy application of a gardening theme. Peppered with personal anecdotes about trips and pets, the book makes a nice family keepsake but does not rise to the level of professional writing. One yearns for the authors to dig deep and share their story in an unvarnished, detailed fashion, including advice that did and did not work for them during Hammerberg’s treatment, such as packing a cooler of snacks for long chemo sessions. Instead, the mere recitation of events and burbling praise for positive thinking prevent the reader from gaining real insight into what it is like to walk the path of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Arksey offers a nice passage describing feeling needed while helping her daughter through cancer and taking joy in their new, mature relationship. But she then retreats to a bare telling and platitudes until the afterword, where she writes eloquently about how the experience changed her and how she uses it to move forward in her senior years. Likewise, Hammerberg writes of taking time to enjoy friends and family and taking pleasure in new traditions like homemade Christmas gifts. She, too, offers a glimmer of insight in her afterword, where she writes about living with cancer instead of dying from it. By this point, however, the reader has been inundated with gardening parables and cutesy stories about the cat.

A homespun story that suffers from a lack of depth, aggravated by a distracting, unnecessary theme.

Pub Date: July 11th, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4196-6953-8
Program: Kirkus Indie
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