THE CHANGELING GARDEN by Winifred Elze

THE CHANGELING GARDEN

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Mild horror fantasy and first novel telling of a big garden in tune with the Brazilian rain forests and a vanished Mayan civilization. Annie, Mark, and five-year-old David move into an old Victorian house sold to them with a proviso--namely, that they keep up the garden and not sell it to the bank for paving over into a parking lot. When the bank makes a big offer, Annie refuses, though Mark wants to sell. Meanwhile, several women in the community are murdered with arrows and have their hearts torn out. Mark, often away on business when the murders happen and an archer in college, falls under his wife's suspicion; little David starts communing with the garden, which talks to him; and Annie finds herself entering the mind of an owl. She also grows fearful of burly biker Harley Baer, from the start a flat-out villain who hangs around and wants to rent the dusty old garage apartment. Is Harley the murderer or simply the golem for a Toltec spirit who wants to waste the planet, starting locally with paving over the garden? Annie falls in with Mariah, an herbalist with a family book going back countless centuries and filled with magical plant nostrums; a friendly Mayan priest arrives by astral means and protects Annie and David from the monstrous Toltec; and so on. Although a thinking garden that speaks for the rain forest and is peopled with Indian astrals is a pleasant conceit, nothing's ever very real here: The many grisly murders--even of the family's teenage baby-sitter-- never attract the massive journalistic invasion we'd expect, and the dialogue simply urges the story along without reflecting the profound emotional responses the deaths would seemingly evoke. Like an older YA horror novel or a marriage of The Secret Garden and Rosemary's Baby. May the gladiolas protect you, and watch out for chestnut trees throwing burrs.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13449-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1995