16 July 2014

Ida: A Review of The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert

My maternal grandmother, Ida, the youngest daughter of a Norwegian immigrant family of 8, maybe more...children whose family homesteaded on the prairies of Saskatchewan (and just south of the border) has been visiting me of late. She brings with her the scent of purple petunias and hybrid roses that permeate through the rooms in my house seeming to intensify in my bedroom where her wedding ring lies within my jewelry box. Her visitations are never announced but always fortuitous. A sense of peace, gladness and great love settles over me, leaving me knowing that whatever is currently happening, I am not alone.
Grandma passed in 2003, but as we all know memories live forever keeping the spirit of those we love strong and true in our daily lives. With the warmth of July settling over the downtown of Toronto, the maple leaves starting to droop heavy with green and the flowers beginning to shine and burst in happiness I lost myself in Mary Rickert's novel, The Memory Garden. With a grandma whose house was filled with violets and a yard absolutely bursting with flowers, I am a true flower girl at heart. I spend the winter months dreaming of what wonders I will plant in the spring, every year sighing over my lack of true gardening space to get dirty and plant some potatoes. Yo, everyone should plant potatoes.

Io9, the website for fans of science, books and awesome geeky things described The Memory Garden as a breathtaking masterpiece. While I am reluctant to use the term masterpiece leaving such accolades for Tolstoy and Herbert (yes, yes I did just rank Tolstoy with Herbert) I would concur that the novel is breathtaking. Rickert accomplishes what all writers hope, create a world in which the reader cannot escape from nor want to any time soon. In fact, many of my recommended reads are based on the ability of the writing to pull me in so completely that I lose a sense of myself. 

The back cover descriptor of The Memory Garden produces an inadequate ability to express what is going on within the bound pages. Yes, Bay the outcasted teenager living with her Nan is a component to the story but not the main character, acting more as a foil than the protagonist.  Do yourself a great service. Never read a book's back cover descriptor again. For some reason they never do the book justice, tending to lead the reader down an unexpected road that at times can result in disappoints, even confusion. The publishing world should reconsider this tried means of advertising and test out word clouds or better have me read all of the books, printing my very coherent (why do you scoff?) synapsis of why you should read it.  True, I would end up writing reviews only for science fiction and the odd mystery novel but what is the issue with that people?  I really see no issue.  

During the frosted hells of January I read a treat of a book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore; a lovely romp of a tale that could easily be the male version of The Memory Garden as both are the pursuit of secrets wrapped up in a quest. Granted  Rickert's quest keeps within the garden and mind of Nan, a lady of certain age and powers while Sloan's quest is more vigorous taking the reader across the U.S.A.  Both novels manage to do exactly what we want them to do, hold their secrets just long enough to keep us turning the pages, revealing the wonders and horrors hinted at.   However The Memory Garden is a very feminine book, steeped with the leaves of witchcraft and the female perspective. This book, it pains me to admit, may not be everyone's cup of tea because of its womanhood. 

For me though, The Memory Garden is a true treasure, especially if you had a grandma who loved her gladiolas as much as she loved her grandchildren. Intrigued in the power of secrets, witches and moonflowers, well then, this here is your summer 2014 read.