BACKYARD by Norman Draper


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A gardening competition leads to sounds of snipping in the backyard.

Blistering and broiling in a steam room someone forgot to properly calibrate, Jasper Burdick, owner of suburban Livia’s most prestigious garden center, dreams of a landscape bursting with enormous flowers of every ilk—all purchased at Burdick’s Plant World, of course—but each bloom has a human face. Burdick’s Best Yard Contest is born. Rumors of the competition and its prize money spread throughout Livia, a town riddled with more than its fair share of plant lovers. Draper carefully arranges his cast of loopy characters, turning the town of Livia into a living garden. Dr. Phyllis Sproot plays the villain. After completing a mail-order course from the Honey Larson-Bayles School of Agronomy, the previously merely pushy Sproot blooms into a domineering, manipulative know-it-all. Utterly cowed by Sproot’s expertise, Marta Poppendauber worries that her own gardens will fall short. Once Sproot hears about the contest, though, she abandons her vicious pruning of Marta’s gardens in favor of espionage. She sends Marta (in various ridiculous disguises) to snoop among the competitors’ plants, quickly discovering that the Fremonts are her natural enemies. Oblivious to Sproot’s villainous machinations, George and Nan Fremont have created a marvelous garden in their backyard, nearly bankrupting themselves in the process. Sproot is stunned to discover the Fremonts have defied all horticultural sanity by planting beautiful but hallucinogenic angel’s trumpets. Debut novelist Draper lavishly describes the gardens of Livia, lingering on begonias and lilacs, clematis and monarda, not to mention Sproot’s original blend of yuccas and a coreopsis-salvia-hollyhock blend. With so much detail, it’s sometimes hard to see the gardens for the plants, but the silly shenanigans keep the pace speedy.

A light tale of suburban warfare waged by the gardening elite.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61773-305-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Kensington
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2014


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