“Soulful and exquisite, this novel blooms with the beauty of humanity.”—Shelf Awareness
“In this exceptional novel, Melanie Wallace conveys the depths and complexities of life in a seemingly uneventful New England village. The Girl in the Garden strikingly affirms Eudora Welty’s belief ‘that one place understood helps us understand all other places better.’”—Ron Rash, author of Serena and Above the Waterfall
“Powerful…A quiet, contemplative novel that builds slowly and leaves a lasting impact.”—Publishers Weekly
When June arrives on the coast of New England, baby in arms, an untrustworthy man by her side, Mabel—who rents them a cabin—senses trouble. A few days later, the girl and her child are abandoned.
June is soon placed with Mabel’s friend, Iris, in town, and her life becomes entwined with a number of locals who have known each other for decades: a wealthy recluse with a tragic past; a widow in mourning; a forsaken daughter returning for the first time in years, with a stranger in tow; and a kindly WWII veteran who serves as the town’s sage. Surrounded by the personal histories and secrets of others, June finds the way forward for herself and her son becoming determined by the others’ pasts, including loves—and crimes—from years ago.
In vivid, nuanced prose, Melanie Wallace—“a writer with a tender regard for the marginal, the missing, and the lost” (Hilary Mantel)—explores the time-tested bonds of a small community, the healing power of friendship and love, and whether the wrongs of the past can ever be made right.
Set in the mid-1970s at an unnamed beach enclave, Wallace's (The Housekeeper) powerful novel centers on June, a young girl who is abandoned at a coastal motel with her infant child, Luke, and taken in by the motel's aging owner, Mabel. Following a cast of characters who are all emotionally hindered by the traumas of the past, the narrative switches perspectives chapter by chapter. Mabel, who is trying to move on after the death of her husband, is ready to close up the motel for the off-season when June's plight changes her plans. Iris, Mabel's reclusive friend with dark secrets in her past, repays Mabel for a long-ago favor by sheltering June after the motel closes for the off-season. Duncan, Iris's lawyer, helps June settle in while also trying to maintain the tenuous relationship between Iris and her estranged daughter, Claire. Sam, a disfigured Vietnam vet who has abandoned his prewar life, takes up Claire's offer to drive her from New York back to her childhood home. Though it is a dim journey for most of the characters, the book focuses on the resiliency of the human spirit. Wallace makes use of long, unconfined sentences to build the many distinctive voices and has a knack for teasing out important details. This is a quiet, contemplative novel that builds slowly and leaves a lasting impact.