Review: The Naked Gardener, by L B Gschwandtner

The Naked Gardener
The Naked Gardener
L B Gschwandtner
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Summary (from Amazon.com):
In a remote forest of northern Vermont, Katelyn Cross takes five women on a wilderness canoe trip where they hope to come up with ideas for saving their dying town. Although the river is not always what it seems and the women have not left their problems behind, a painting ritual creates a new way to look at the world – and themselves. Artist Katelyn Cross loves Greg Mazur and he loves her. He wants to be married but a previous relationship that went sour has made Katelyn overly cautious about any permanent commitment. And what about Greg’s first wife? He lost her to cancer and Katelyn worries that he’s only looking for a replacement. What’s a girl to do? Canoe down a river with five gal pals, camp out, catch fish, talk about life and men. The problem is, a river can be as unpredictable as any relationship and just as hard to manage. On their last day, when the river turns wild, the women face the challenge of a lifetime and find that staying alive means saving themselves first while being open to help from a most unlikely source. As Katelyn navigates the raging water, she learns how to overcome her fear of change in a world where nothing stays the same. When Katelyn returns to her garden, she’ll face one more obstacle and the naked gardener will meet the real Greg Mazur. What readers are saying about The Naked Gardener: Lyrical … Scandalous … Empowering … Exhilarating … Honest … Sensual … Fun … Gentle … Pleasurable … Transporting … Timeless In her first novel, award winning writer L B Gschwandtner explores the push and pull of love, a woman’s need to maintain her individuality within marriage, and the bonds that can make women stronger even when the world feels as if it’s breaking apart.

I’ve known L B Gschwandtner through her wonderful website The Novelette for several years now, but only in the very cursory way that people who occupy overlapping circles do. I’ve participated in her contests, she’s visited my blog, etc. Even so, when she announced the publication of her first novel, I had to read it. Lucky for me, it’s available for the kindle for less than a dollar, though it’s totally worth the print-edition price of $10.99.

I actually started reading The Naked Gardener the day I downloaded it, a couple of weeks ago, but I had a stack of review books with deadlines that had to come first. I revisited it over the weekend, and ended up staying up to the wee hours because the story caught me, and held me so tightly that I had to finish it immediately. I really loved the idea of Katelyn naked in her garden – it struck me as something my mother would do, and I liked the women Katelyn befriends. I think Maze could be interesting but we heard about him more than we heard from him, and while that’s fairly normal in a story that focuses on women, I hope he’s a bit more present in the next novel.

If you’ve ever wanted to run away to a rural farm, have a canoe adventure, or just share stories with a bunch of new friends, or even if you’ve already done all those things, this novel is one you’ll enjoy, both for the obvious story, and the deeper one, about finding yourself, facing your fears, and learning to accept and love yourself as you are, not as you wish you were. I can’t begin to speculate about the best diet pill for women, but I am fairly certain that Katelyn, Erica, and the rest of the women in this novel would never touch them, but would instead take off down the river, or start a project, or have another candid conversation, and never care that dieting might be in order.

I don’t think you have to garden naked to appreciate The Naked Gardener, but I’m certain that it will inspire many of us to try it at least once. I don’t have a garden, but I do have a very private back yard with just the right amount of sun (at least at this time of year)…this book reminded me of why I love that privacy so much.

Goes well with freshly-baked artisan bread and local honey.

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