by Heather Webber
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
Emme Wynn has wanted nothing more her whole life than to feel like part of a family. Having grown up on the run with her con artist mother, she’s been shuffled from town to town, drawn into bad situations, and has learned some unsavory habits that she’s tried hard to overcome. When her estranged grandmother tracks her down out of the blue and extends a job offer—helping to run her booth at an open-air marketplace in small-town Sweetgrass, Alabama—Emme is hopeful that she’ll finally be able to plant the roots she’s always dreamed of. But some habits are hard to break, and she risks her newfound happiness by keeping one big truth to herself.
Cora Bee Hazelton has her hands full with volunteering, gardening, her job as a color consultant and designer, and just about anything she can do to keep her mind off her painful past, a past that has resulted in her holding most everyone at arm’s length. The last thing she wants is to form close relationships only to have her heart broken yet again. But when she’s injured, she has no choice other than to let people into her life and soon realizes it’s going to be impossible to keep her heart safe—or her secrets hidden.
In the magical neighborhood garden in the middle of Hickory Lane, Emme and Cora Bee learn some hard truths about the past and themselves, the value of friends, family, and community, and most importantly, that true growth starts from within.
This one was not my favourite Heather Webber magical realism story, but that’s purely a matter of subjective taste for the theme. I’m not interested in reading about con men (women), even unwilling ones seeking redemption. But it had a garden with a dead body in it, and magical realism, so I was willing.
Putting aside the bits about living the life of a con, and keeping secrets, etc. there was a lot to like in this story. Once I wrapped my head around just how huge the cul-de-sac had to have been to accommodate the garden described, it sounded magical, and all the characters, as usual with Webber’s writing, come to life on the page. There is, as usual, the theme of ‘love conquers most everything’ but until the end it wasn’t dominant.
The dead body is discovered on page 1, but then just sort of lurks there in the background, while the police work at identifying the remains (they’re old). But things come together at the end and I have to say I wasn’t really expecting them to come together in quite that shape. I love when an author is able to surprise and blindside me. It bumped the story up .5 a star.
I didn’t read this for Halloween Bingo, but looking at my card, I have Country House Mystery unread, and curiously, no desire to read anything for it, and my Lottery wild card still un-used, so I think I’ll use it and swap out Country House Mystery for the Home is Where the Hurt Is square, since this story definitely involves crimes that occur in nice, normal families.