When Charity Baxter’s grandfather dies, she inherits his estate on a small island in Florida, but she loses the one person who loved her unconditionally. Charity moves in to the massive mansion on the coast which holds her best memories but also one which traumatized her and has haunted her for years. Soon, this self-described socially awkward potter finds herself developing a friendship with her equally troubled and grieving neighbor and sharing her home with a runaway teen and her great-uncle whose secrets just may answer some questions about the memories which continue to torment her. Add-in the friendly island residents whose requests for unique pottery pieces with her grandfather’s special ingredient draw Charity out of her shell and into a mystery, a couple of visits from her narcissistic mother and Charity’s own love-hate relationship with the magical weeping willow tree in her backyard and you have one compelling and unique story.
At its heart, In the Light of the Garden is about relationships, those that shape us, those which challenge us and those which encourage and strengthen us. Every single one of the characters in this book are dealing with the outcome of choices they have made which affect their closest relationships. Many of the relationships described have high amounts of dysfunction, which makes this story and its numerous threads feel true to life. The journey that Charity and each of the supporting characters take, help them to see the truth and to take responsibility for their own choices which contribute to the dysfunction.
But ultimately this is a story about forgiveness. About reconciliation and redemption. Even in the midst of the shame, guilt and despair that each character experiences, there is hope. This is the golden epiphany which each person eventually experiences. Not just the forgiveness they grant to those who hurt them, but the vital importance of forgiving one’s self. The unique twist to this revelation is the part that the weeping tree plays in helping each character release the darkness in their hearts so that they can move into the light of freedom.
I have read several books by author Heather Burch and always come away impressed and moved. Each of her novels contains fleshed out characters, some likeable, others not so much, but all of them relatable. Burch puts her characters in situations and takes them on spiritual journeys which slowly reveals truth to the reader while also making them feel like a fellow passenger on said journey. In the Light of the Garden is no exception. If you like stories that are real and emotional, sometimes sad but always with hope, then I highly recommend this one.