Susannah Nelson, aged 50, is vaguely unsettled despite her tranquil
home and long-term successful marriage to husband Joe. Why is she
suddenly dreaming about Jake, her high school sweetheart? She hopes
that her summer vacation, with its respite from her teaching
career, will help return her perspective on her life.
Joe suspects that Susannah's recent pensive mood is actually
depression, stemming from her father's November death. Susannah is
equally certain that that is not the problem, given the strained
relationship she shared with her father. She concedes that maybe
her father's death started her thinking of Jake again, since he
probably played a part in breaking them up. Now she longs for
closure of that long-ago relationship with Jake and the sudden
ending that has always mystified her.
Susannah is distracted from her problems when she learns that her
elderly mother, Vivian, who is back in Susannah's home town, is
having problems. Vivian accuses her longtime housekeeper of
stealing from her. She is forgetful, has gotten lost while
wandering, is losing weight, and no longer has a social life.
Vivian insists she has seen her husband, even though she realizes
he is dead. Susannah decides to go stay with her mother, planning
to settle her into an assisted-living community. She's also hoping
for the opportunity to talk to Jake. She feels driven to find out
the truth behind their breakup so she can put an end to her
fantasies about him.
Meanwhile, Susannah and Joe's daughter Chrissie dreads leaving
college to spend the summer with her parents --- especially her
critical mother. Chrissie also dreads the separation from her
perfect boyfriend, while knowing that something feels wrong between
the two of them.
After spending time with her mother, Susannah realizes that she is
in worse condition than she'd feared. She's glad she has
reconnected with her childhood friend Carolyn, who proves to be as
easy to confide in as ever. Carolyn, now running her family's
lumber mill, is equally thrilled to have a friend re-enter her
life, enabling her to disclose the burgeoning attraction she feels
to her gardener.
When Vivian finally agrees to move to an assisted-living apartment,
Susannah's job isn't finished. She must sort and dispose of her
parents' lifetime accumulation and clean the house in order to sell
or rent it out. She must also deal with her own guilt and sorrow.
Her burden is increased when Chrissie arrives to "help" her mother
pack up Vivian's home, and lands in a relationship with a man who
is every mother's nightmare.
An intriguing mystery surrounding Susannah's deceased brother
develops, clue by tantalizing clue. Why is her father not buried
with his only son? Who leaves flowers on Doug's grave? Is it the
same person who breaks into Vivian's house and steals his high
school mementos? Could it be that nothing --- and no one ---
connected to Susannah's past is as she remembers?
It's clear that Debbie Macomber cares deeply about her
fully-realized characters and their family, friends and loves,
along with their hopes and dreams. She also makes her readers care
about them. Macomber capably serves up several unexpected plot
turns in SUSANNAH'S GARDEN topped off with a doozy of a satisfying
ending, complete with the biggest, most surprising twist of all. It
all adds up to a pleasurably engrossing read.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 23, 2011