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Lost In The Garden


Lost In The Garden

I wanted to like LOST IN THE GARDEN because of the cover. A chinos
and tee shirt-clad man stands on a wide expanse of green lawn, his
back to us. Pink rabbit ears adorn his close-cropped head. On the
back cover we see the rabbit ears, abandoned on the grass. It turns
out to be an appropriate setup for a book about a man who, over the
course of his 46th year, finally puts away some childish

I suspect that Michael Benedict, the fictional narrator, shares
some characteristics with his creator, Philip Beard. For one thing,
they are both lawyers, although Mr. Beard claims in his author
biography to be "recovering." Michael has reached that itchy age of
45, and he just can't let go of the dream of becoming a great
golfer. At the beginning of the novel, he makes a deal with his
wife Kelly: if he can shoot 69 or better by the end of the season
without giving up any part of his legal practice, she will go along
with his idea of spending all his free time on his game with the
goal of making the PGA Senior Tour when he turns 50. It becomes
clear very soon that between then and now, when Michael is penning
this novel in his childhood room at his parent's home, something
has gone terribly wrong. The trouble (or maybe the blessing, if you
like golf) is that Michael chooses to dole out the skinny on his
crimes-against marriage between exacting descriptions of holes at
his local golf club, Fox Run.

It's an interesting way to raise the stakes of a golf game. Along
the way Michael relates his past as the unexceptional (he feels)
son of a fantastically successful businessman, as an articulate
horny teenager, as a bored lawyer who loves his wife and children
but feels something is missing. What's missing seems to be his
brain, at least temporarily, as he reacts with dismay to news from
his wife of a surprise baby-on-the-way. This cuts off the flow of
nookie from the exasperated Kelly, and the still-horny Michael
makes some unwise decisions about how to remedy his state.
Naturally, Michael's crusty old caddy Sal knows way more than any
of the over-privileged players, not only about golf but about life.
With Sal's help and some sincere soul searching, Michael stumbles
on to some genuine insight about life and love, and worms his way
back into the bosom of his family.

Mr. Beard's Michael is adept at handling the temporal breaks
between the big Game and the narration of his fall from grace. He
is also at times very funny: "At the time, sex education in public
schools was still controversial, and my junior-high administrators
tried to allay parental fears by assigning the task to the teacher
least likely to succeed in imparting any real knowledge about sex."
"I'm sort of like Gregor Samsa with keys to the BMW, and although
he had more severe outward problems, my parents are no less
repulsed." Michael is a sardonic, self-deprecating narrator and the
reader can't help but like the feisty, smart, sometimes profane
Kelly. His descriptions of their more memorable fights manage to be
both hilarious and dead-on.

Still, being lost in this garden, you have to wade through a lot of
golf for the good stuff. I'm well aware that for some, golf
is the good stuff, and for those people this just might be
the perfect book.

Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol on January 7, 2011

Lost In The Garden
by Philip Beard

  • Publication Date: May 29, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452288428
  • ISBN-13: 9780452288423