Sunday, July 21, 2013
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway
Galilee Garner can be as prickly and sensitive as the roses she breeds in her southern California backyard, but when her teenaged niece arrives on her doorstep unexpectedly, temporarily homeless and motherless, Gal manages far beyond providing nutrient requirements.
Thirty-eight, unmarried, and with no children of her own, Gal is a strict disciplinarian. She teaches high school science and coaches the Science Team in addition to showing her roses in national competitions. Although schooled in the scientific method --do this and then this to get this result--she knows there is also an elusive, intangible, unquantifiable factor in successful rose-breeding and in life called “luck.”
Dilloway has written a story that engages our senses (sight, smell, touch) and our whole mind: we are presented with constraints and conditions that must be taken into account when cogitating the deceptively “small” and everyday ethical questions Gal encounters as she teaches, and as she competes in rose shows. I would not be surprised to learn that Ms. Dilloway was schooled in philosophy, so much does this charmingly light and easy read recall the work of Alexander McCall Smith, Scottish philosopher and author, whose series The Sunday Philosophy Club likewise raises sticky ethical issues we often encounter in our own lives.
This novel qualifies as a romance, though it is not typical in any way. For one thing, our main character is crusty and opinionated—rendering her unlikeable in the eyes of many. But she is clever, too, and principled, and a very good teacher. She also has a life-threatening condition which hampers her activities and constrains her choices. While her illness precludes some opportunities, it has also given her opportunities. It is when Gal realizes her bounty and discovers not what she lacks but what she already has, that she becomes a person that people want to have as a friend.
I am a sucker for books about gardening, its failures and its delights. I also like books about people managing to overcome--or manage in spite of--things in their physical or psychological makeup that would hold them back from living a full life. This novel raises plenty of important issues that we might encounter in our own lives, and gently guides us through possible outcomes.
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