Thanks to her love of flowers, Delia has become a sort of apprentice to talented gardener Old Red and is devastated when he begins to show signs of encroaching dementia.
With all of the confidence of youth, she holds in her heart the belief that perhaps with her help—and that of all his loving neighbors—she can preserve his memories by collecting favorite stories about the beloved man. As she moves through the months, she records (in a rather mature first-person) both the tasks she completes in the garden as well as the stories she collects about him, also describing Red’s tragically inexorable decline. Delia’s surrounded by loving adults, and she shares her grief with best friend Mae and new love interest Tommy, as well as receiving support from members of her church; with these relationships, this warm effort neatly captures the strength of a close-knit community and the tight bonds that can form between the very old and the young. The 13-year-old’s often lyrical prose is attractive, even though it sometimes strays toward a more adult-sounding voice. Her frustration, fear and sense of loss will be readily recognizable to others who have experienced dementia in a loved one, and her story may provide some guidance on how to move down that rocky path toward acceptance and letting go.
What do flowers remember? The stories of the people who cared for them, of course, as Wiersbitzky’s sensitive novel compassionately conveys. (Fiction. 11-14)