Saturday, February 16, 2013

Much More than Just Gardening

When I saw that Denise Hildreth Jones' new book, The First Gardener, was available for free download on Kindle, I quickly clicked and got it. I finished it in two days. I had read one of her other books, and remembered with pleasure her exciting writing style with quirky conversations, Southern characters, and unexpected endings. I was certainly not disappointed with this one and will be looking for her other books soon.

The First Gardener is set in Franklin, Tennessee, at the governor's mansion. The main characters are Gray and Mackenzie London, but the supporting characters added much to the story.

Mackenzie had suffered from infertility for several years before giving to birth to Maddie, who is five years old and entering kindergarten when the book begins. Infertility problems continue to plague Tennessee's first couple and treatments are ongoing to try to give them another pregnancy.

We meet Jeremiah, the old black gardener who spends his days tending the garden at the mansion, and Eugenia, Mackenzie's mother, along with her quirky senior adult friends. We learn about some of the pressures that politicians have to face and community work that the first lady does. Jeremiah narrates in between chapters with his home-spun philosophy of life, especially the lives of Mackenzie, Gray, and little Maddie.

When tragedy strikes suddenly after Maddie had attended kindergarten only a week, the blow is almost more than Gray, Mackenzie, and their friends can stand. Then, about six weeks after Maddie's death in a car accident, the Londons discover that Mackenzie is pregnant. She rebounds quickly, thinking that this is a gift from God in recompense for their loss. She rushes back into her busy life, decorates and furnishes the new nursery, and pushes grief far from her mind until diaster strikes again in the form of a miscarriage, the 5th one she had experienced. Six pregnancies, one baby, and that one was gone.

I wondered, because the book was only half finished, what else the author would have to say. But she said plenty. She dealt with deep depression, heavy grief, and the temptation and isolation that comes when people have such deep problems. Since one of our daughters experienced infertility, I knew something of the heartache described in the book. I could feel her grief and loss as I read with tears in my eyes.

The old gardener tells us much about flowers as he presents Mackenzie with a flower every day--one that he said God told him to give her. Each flower had a special meaning. There is humor, too, as Eugenia, Mackinzie's mother, tries to tell Jeremiah how to garden, since she, too, was a gardener in earlier years. Her three friends also lend plenty of humor.

This book would appeal to anyone. The experiences of infertility speak to the those who have been through this. The characterization of the mother-in-law and her friends would appeal to senior citizens. The stresses and temptations that come to Gray London are like those that come to many young and middle age people as they struggle with life. The deep devotion that sustains Jeremiah are helpful to anyone, as he depends on God to help him. And the surprise ending leaves the reader with a punch, one that was totally unexpected.

Don't miss this wonderful book by Denise Hildreth Jones, pictured here.



  1. It sounds a bit heartbreaking to me. . .maybe because I still have a young child and had trouble with infertility.

  2. It was sad, yet filled with hope. I will be interviewing this author on my blog soon. I will get the questions to her during the first week of March.