Today’s post by Lisa Van Allen |
When I started my research for THE NIGHT GARDEN, I began by buying a field guide to poisonous plants and mushrooms, which I then used as my bedtime reading for about a month. At one point my husband looked at me and said, “Should I be worried?”
I laughed. I’d always been fascinated by poisonous plants—by the beautiful belladonna, which was once distilled into droplets to cause women’s pupils to suggestively dilate; by milkweed, which grew behind our house and attracted fascinating monarch caterpillars; even by poison ivy, which—amazingly enough—evolved a particular kind of defense mechanism that only works on human beings.
Of course, a person doesn’t set out to write a novel about plants—there’s got to be story. And for me, there’s got to be magic, too. Something unexpected. And a satisfying romance. I thought back to my high school lit class, to Hawthorne’s Rappaccini’s Daughter, and the idea for THE NIGHT GARDEN began to bloom.
Here’s the gist: Olivia Pennywort is the mysterious caretaker of an enchanted garden maze in the rolling hills of the western Catskills—and while I don’t want to give too much away, I’ll just say that she has a condition that forces her to keep the world at arm’s length. People from all over come to her maze to walk its wild and unexpected corridors; it’s said that getting lost in the maze can help a person find her way through life’s toughest questions. Olivia is lonely but content in her enchanted little kingdom, caring for her ailing father and for the ragtag group of women who live in her falling down barn.
Enter Sam Van Winkle, Olivia’s childhood crush, who has a mysterious condition of his own and who has returned to Green Valley with Olivia in mind. As Sam relentlessly pursues a new friendship with her, Olivia begins to question her relationships, her dreams, and her way of moving through the world. She wonders: Are the garden walls that have kept her safe for so long her paradise, or her prison?
Like my prior book THE WISHING THREAD, this book explores how a woman can find a way to live her best, most authentic and satisfying life. It was a joy to write (and research)! You can find out more on my website.
Thanks to everyone at She Reads for having me here today! And thanks to YOU, reader, for loving books and supporting writers like me.
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For fans of Sarah Addison Allen, Aimee Bender, and Alice Hoffman, The Night Garden is a luminous novel of love, forgiveness, and the possibilities that arise when you open your heart.
Nestled in the bucolic town of Green Valley in upstate New York, the Pennywort farm appears ordinary, yet at its center lies something remarkable: a wild maze of colorful gardens that reaches beyond the imagination. Local legend says that a visitor can gain answers to life’s most difficult problems simply by walking through its lush corridors.
Yet the labyrinth has never helped Olivia Pennywort, the garden’s beautiful and enigmatic caretaker. She has spent her entire life on her family’s land, harboring a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. But when her childhood best friend, Sam Van Winkle, returns to the valley, Olivia begins to question her safe, isolated world and wonders if she at last has the courage to let someone in. As she and Sam reconnect, Olivia faces a difficult question: Is the garden maze that she has nurtured all of her life a safe haven or a prison?