Front Yard - Norman R. Draper

I have been away so much this summer, reading a ton but just now catching up on some reviews…


Even though the front yard usually provides a first impression, in this case it was the Backyard that got things started for me. Despite the fact that I am pretty much a black thumb when it comes to growing things, I get a certain vicarious thrill reading about people who do it so well. I am, in fact, a great appreciator of other people’s efforts, evident in my fond memories of my father’s gardens and my current participation in a CSA. That should count for something, right? I lead with this because I feel I have to explain my interest in these books despite my obvious lack of gardening skills.


I do have something in common with George and Nan Fremont — I appreciate a nice glass of wine at the end of the day — though perhaps not as many or as often as them. (Not really sure how they get up the next day, and the next day after that.) In any case, I took another trip to Livia, to revisit the quirky and competitive gardeners that seem to be drawn to this small town. I appreciated that there was no over-the-top contest to drive the plot this time around, and the story was a little more even-keeled without the manic energy the contest seemed to inspire. There are plenty of over-the-top characters, though; some worked for me, but others seemed to go beyond farce and felt a little flat. On the other hand, some of the returning characters seemed more developed, especially the Fremonts’ daughter, Mary, who got a bit more of a storyline compared with the previous novel.


All in all, this was a light, entertaining book. Perfect for a breezy summer afternoon in a hammock, a glass of wine in hand, and a lush garden in full bloom somewhere on the horizon.