Beloved bestselling fiction author Francine Rivers is always a sure bet when it comes to writing a story that not only pulls at the heartstrings but also inspires readers’ lives to change. Now she offers this re-release of her 1999 bestseller. Fully updated, and just as pertinent and timely as ever, LEOTA’S GARDEN is certain to match and even exceed its first-time-around readership.
Rivers opens this riveting story with college student Corban Solsek’s response to his professor’s grade on his sociology proposal. A “B!” steams Corban, who proceeds to challenge his instructor’s assessment. Corban wants that “A” so he moves forward unwillingly to get it, and in the process, this self-centered egotistical student becomes a learner of an elderly 84-year-old widow.
"Rivers does a fabulous job here of digging deep into the hearts and souls of her characters, and allowing them to dig around inside themselves before they reach outward and upward for healing."
Enter Leota Reinhardt, who has pretty much given up on life and her estranged family. Leota is feeling every bit of her 80-plus years these days. A recent exhausting and frightening trip to her local grocer’s forces her to seek help from an agency set up to assist the elderly with daily chores and errands. Leota answers the door to Corban’s knock and almost knocks him off his feet with her sassy, sarcastic quick wit and rather droll, cantankerous personality. Although they get off to a rocky start, both need something from the other. Leota requires Corban’s physical strength to carry on, and Corban needs Leota’s senior life perspective for his paper.
Meanwhile, Leota’s self-centered daughter, Nora Gaines, is reading her 18-year-old daughter Annie the riot act. Annie, a sweet-tempered, long-suffering girl, is trying her level best to maintain her Christian witness to her mother. But Nora’s selfish pushiness is too much when she demands that Annie attend the college of Nora’s choice. Annie moves out into an apartment with a good friend and, feeling out of sorts with life in general, decides to visit her Grandma Leota about whom she knows very little. Leota is stunned when Annie comes calling, and what begins as a tenuous friendly relationship quickly deepens as both women learn to let go of the past and love those difficult people in their lives.
To her mother’s dismay, Annie begins spending much of her time with Leota and helps her grandma re-open her once-beautiful garden with the help of Corban. Together, the three form a tight bond and labor hard to recreate the splendor that was Leota’s saving grace during her many years of working and rearing a family. Secrets are unearthed that change Annie’s perspective of her mother and also force her to decide what path in life she will take. Days and weeks pass by, and the tensions start to grow (as does the garden) until an explosion of pent-up emotions forces everyone in Leota’s family to confront the truth of their growing-up years. Some healing takes place with much more needed before Leota herself faces a dire health crisis. Will it be too late to make amends? That is the question on everyone’s minds.
Rivers does a fabulous job here of digging deep into the hearts and souls of her characters, and allowing them to dig around inside themselves before they reach outward and upward for healing.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on March 14, 2013