Revisiting the Garden
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 250 pp., $25
Bookish gardeners know well (even in sunny Southern California) the delights of the winter doldrums. In rain and snow they diligently read their way through
, Eleanor Perenyi and that greatest of all literary gardeners, Katharine White (wife of E.B.). Page Dickey, legendary writer and gardener in the same outspoken, practical tradition, has written several books set in Duck Hill, her upstate
garden of nearly three decades. Children, dogs, grandchildren have come and gone, and still Dickey digs and writes and compares notes. In "Embroidered Ground," she offers tips: Begin with doorways, don't forget paths, insist on hedges. And wisdom: how to share your garden with a new partner who might have a different style, the beauty of the unmown, the long view (planting for decades).
"Gardens 'have a way of slowing time down — allowing its flow to gather in placid ponds, as it were — but that is part of their power of enchantment,'" Dickey quotes Robert Pogue Harrison, another name in gardening lore. It's a book to read, dreaming of spring.
One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of
William Morrow: 282 pp., $25.99
From 1996 to 2006, Nepal experienced a civil war that barely reached the margins of our media machine. In 2006, Irish American Conor Grennan, then 29, looked up from his desk at a think tank in Prague and decided he wanted to serve, to help, somewhere. Looking through brochures for volunteer opportunities, he settled on an orphanage in Nepal.
In his boyish, honest, surfer-dude style, he's sure the ladies will love it. But the swagger stops in the first few pages, and the book becomes the story of how volunteering changes the life of the giver as much or more than the life of the receiver. Grennan falls completely in love with 18 children who had been kidnapped from villages terrorized by Maoist rebels. He tells the story of how they were sold by traffickers for labor and worse and how they ended up at the Little Princes orphanage on the southern border of the Kathmandu Valley. He tells us about the many times he tried to leave and just couldn't, how he ended up fighting bureaucrats and criminals and started a nonprofit (Next Generation Nepal) to reconnect some of the children with their families.
In the tradition of "Three Cups of Tea" and "Mountains Beyond Mountains," this book provides proof (there cannot be too much) of the value of volunteer work.
Enough About Love
Hervé Le Tellier, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter
Other Press: 240 pp., $14.95 paper
Hervé Le Tellier is a well-known commentator on French culture — food, literature, mathematics and many other subjects — in newspapers, magazines, on the radio, in essays and novels. "Enough About Love" follows three couples, joined together by a psychiatrist, Thomas Le Gall. One great joy of the novel is the sense of walking around Paris as if it were your own city — the Jardins du Luxembourg, Ile de la Cité, various arrondissements.
Le Tellier weaves a neighborhood of lovers who shift and change partners like chemicals moving through test tubes, changing bonds over the years. Once he has established the players, he distinguishes between their public and private selves; what they are thinking appears beside the words they are saying. It is a complicated novel, artfully told and translated and eerily familiar, the way love stories so often are.