Monday, 21 April 2014

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening - Thoughts

Well Easter is over in Australia and it was a pleasant, quiet day. With all our family overseas we don't usually do much for the holidays so we talked about holidays and read all day.  Did I mention too I ate a Lindt chocolate rabbit?  That was really nice.

The book of the day was Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening. I read it in a day.  It is a true story by Carol Wall and the title sounded so appealing. Carol lives in Virginia with her husband. Her children are grown and have moved away. She has battled with cancer in the past and worries all the time it will come back. Neither she nor her husband are gardeners and one day she realises how ragged her back yard finally looks.

She sees her neighbour's garden bloom and grow under the fine hands of Mr. Owita. Mr. Owita is a Kenyan refugee, highly educated along with his wife Benita but they cannot find jobs equal to their education because of the prejudices that abound in the community.

However he works at the local grocery, in the garden shop and in people's yards. He is full of wisdom and his quiet manner is quite endearing to everyone who meets him.  Carol hires him to work his wonders in her garden and there the story begins.

I didn't enjoy Carol's role in this book. She irritated me to no end. She won't irritate everyone but she did me. I am a type of person that deals well with crisis then crashes about 3 weeks later for a day then gets over it. Carol is a worrier. She is anxious about everything and feels the whole world is out to get her in one way or another. That just got on my nerves after awhile.

Her battle with cancer is real and would be difficult under any circumstance. But she thinks and talks about it all the time. She talks about it to anyone who will listen and Mr. Owita gets the full brunt of it. The Owita's have their own burdens to bear, having left their daughter in Africa and trying to get her to the USA.  Carol is interested in their lives but to me it always seemed as if it was after she had talked about herself and then she asked about Lok, the daughter. There are other issues in Owita's life that are very serious but of course she doesn't  know that but the reader can figure it out from Mr. Owita's manner. It seemed to go over Carol's head. She also seems to pride herself in her racial tolerance and I would have preferred if she had just talked about Mr. Owita and his wife as people not so much as black people.  We all have our own struggles.

I enjoyed the Owita family very much but there was a secrecy about Benita that was alluded to that I didn't think ever evened out.

The gardening aspect of the book was wonderful and I enjoyed reading about the transformation of her garden. Carol is also dealing with ageing parents and this is difficult for her and she writes of the relationship with her parents which I also enjoyed.

Germaine Greer wrote somewhere once that a person, once over the age of 50, should not have body parts in their conversation because they will be dead boring.  This is a premise I try to stick to with my friends and we laugh about it as at times it is quite difficult to do.

This is probably why I found Carol so annoying because everything she talked about was gloom and doom. Maybe it was because of the book. This is her first novel and it is obvious her health is a big concern to her. I sympathised with that but I have always believed you acknowledge your health problems but keep moving on and doing those things you enjoy.  Talking about all the ramifications and what "might" happen is useless.

A lot of people will really enjoy this book but I'm afraid there were bits I loved but balanced with bits that made me want to slap Carol with a wet noodle.

I loved that I could sit on the couch all day and read a book though and eat chocolate.  That alone was worth the entire day.

1 comment:

  1. Somehow I'd missed the fact that this is nonfiction... hoping my library hold comes soon. It sounds like you had a wonderful day!


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