Perennials by Julie Cantrell

Book description:

When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.

Eva Sutherland—known to all as Lovey—grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is drawn in to a secret project—a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, learning how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

My review:

Cantrell has firmly secured a place as one of my top ten favorite authors. Having read and loved The Feathered Bone and When Mountains Move, I was excited to read Perennials. This book did not disappoint! I knew about halfway through that it was probably going to make me cry and it delivered.

My favorite aspect of Cantrell’s writing is that she does not shy away from difficult or painful topics. Her characters are real and complete; they have an integrity to themselves in the choices they make within their story. The relationship of Lovey’s parents in the book is particularly inspiring and honest.

I did find it a little odd that there was such a focus on alternative spirituality throughout the book. It might be off-putting for readers that are looking for a very Christian book and story. However, if one understands that it is not a story with a strong faith-filled lesson and reads it for the beautiful story of forgiveness and strength within the characters, it is possible to skip over parts that might offend some readers.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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