When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.
Eva—known to all as Lovey—grew up in Oxford, MS, surrounded by literary history and her mother’s stunning perennial gardens. But a garden shed fire and the burns suffered by one of her best friends seemed to change everything. Her older sister Bitsy blamed her for the fire—and no one spoke up on her behalf. Bitsy the cheerleader, Bitsy the homecoming queen, Bitsy married to a wealthy investor. And all the while, Lovey blamed for everything that goes wrong.
At eighteen, Lovey turns down a marriage proposal, flees from Oxford and the expectations of attending Ole Miss, and instead goes to Arizona—the farthest thing from the South she can imagine. She becomes a successful advertising executive, a weekend yoga instructor, and seems to have it all together. But she’s alone. And on her 45th birthday, she can’t help but wonder what’s wrong.
When she gets a call from her father—still known to everyone as Chief from his Ole Miss football days—insisting that she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration, she’s at wits end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, the one that will secure her financial goals and set her up for retirement. But his words, “Family First,” hit too close to home. Is there hope for her estranged relationship with Bitsy after all this time
Eva’s journey home, to the memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise for her mother, becomes one of discovering roots, and truth, and love, and what living perennially in spite of disappointments and tragedy really means. Eva thought she wanted to leave her family and the South far behind . . . but she’s realizing she hasn’t truly been herself the whole time she’s been gone.
Eva is running from the past. She has created a new life for herself as an ad executive in Arizona. She is about to sign a huge account and then she is going to retire to the mountains. But, her parents have called her home for their anniversary celebration. She is not ready to face her past or her family, especially her sister.
I adore this book!! The story, the location, the family traditions, it all hits home! There were spots I had to put the book down and just sigh. I live an hour outside of Oxford and I graduated from Ole Miss so of course, this book became special the first time Oxford is mentioned.
Even though I gave this book a 5 star rating, it is not without problems. Eva, to me, came off as a little whiney and she doesn’t stand up for herself when she should. There were places I wanted to GIBBS SLAP her. She is an ad executive and she didn’t get there by being mousey. So when her sister treats her like crap and she takes it, that grates on my nerves.
Outside of that one minor flaw, this is a just an all around great tale about family and life’s ups and downs. This story is full of southern charm. Julie Cantrell nailed Oxford, the south and it’s traditions. She is a masterful storyteller and creates a true world which everyone should experience.
“There’s no point in telling her the truth-that my hometown is a literary mecca filled with poet laureates and Pulitzer winners, a university community more diverse and well-read than any she’s probably visited, much less called home” (quote about Oxford,MS.)