“Difficult and obstinate. Thriving under a set of specific and limited conditions. That pretty much describes me. Maybe that’s why I like these roses so much.”
Margaret Dilloway, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, by Margaret Dilloway, was published on August 2 and is 368 pages. I read and loved her first novel, How to Be an American Housewife, and went on a writing retreat with Margaret last year. Her publisher sent me an early reader copy of the novel.
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns is about feisty, thirty-six-year-old Galilee Garner, a science teacher and rose breeder with kidney disease who is suddenly left to care for her teenage niece, Riley, when her delinquent sister takes a job overseas. For a woman who would rather rub aphids off rose leaves, inheriting a girl with social issues while dealing with dialysis every other night does not exactly excite her. Troubles at her job with her principal and also with her best friend, the art teacher, exacerbate Gal’s wish to hide away in her greenhouse and never come out. As Gal and her niece begin to bond over roses, Gal’s health and other relationships start to fail, and it takes losing almost everything for Gal to realize how blessed she truly is.
Gal Garner is an original and endearing character. Her stubbornness and wit in the face of her life’s adversity make for amusing commentary, and she almost never feels sorry for herself. Her honesty is both shocking and refreshing, and readers will pull for her from the first chapter. The way that Dilloway weaves in her extraordinary knowledge of growing and breeding roses as a metaphor for her thorny characters and relationships is brilliant, and her character development is smooth and believable. Readers should prepare to cry while reading this book, but not from anything predictable or sentimental, only the exquisite beauty of humanity illustrated by a sure and capable hand.
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns is one of my favorite books of 2012. If you enjoy stories of hope, healing, and family, I strongly encourage you to read this novel. I give it my highest recommendation.