I have the most beautiful book gathering dust on my shelf waiting for me to FINALLY write the review so as to properly shelve it. It has been there for longer than my youngest has been alive. Six or seven months of dust certainly adds up fast. The book is Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick.

Starting with the shallow, I adore the cover. Moving deeper, despite the 6 months that have passed since actually reading it, I can still remember it well enough to tell you what I loved about it. If that doesn’t communicate its value enough on its own, read on. First, it’s about a daughter who loves tinkering with plants as does her father. She wants to make an apple hybrid that is tasty and peels easily, so she follows in her father’s footsteps and after many years of dedication and secret attempts, manages to do so. This is not being done in today’s ‘pursue whatever makes you happy’ atmosphere either, but with onlookers who think tampering with nature is anti-God, that mothers should only ever be spending time on their children.

In fact, in the beginning she HIDES what she’s doing. She wonders often if she shouldn’t be spending less time in the garden and more with her family (though throughout the book it is apparent that she does everything there is to do for her family and that gardening is just another way for her to have stewardship over what God has given her.) The author traces this ‘based on a true story’ novel through her overwhelming desire to create a type of lilac: one with a specific shade and number of petals. Through that main story-line we listen to the scientific method she employs, the dedication of a husband who orders lilacs from oversees, the pain involved in culling the ‘lesser’ of her plants, the determination involved in digging up and preserving them on rafts tied to trees lest the common flooding that destroyed her gardens ruin all her efforts. It highlights her struggle to balance her passion for her work on that front and her passion for her family.

Kirkpatrick highlights how others, whose storylines are carefully woven in, were impacted by what many folks at the time considered a waste of her time and even a blasphemy of what God made. It chronicled how she used her garden to help other children by paying them to help her water and housing them so they were near enough to take lessons or attend a school they wished to go to. I found myself really loving Hulda Klager in all her spunk and dedication. The reality of her story as she dove into an unexplainable depression that nothing seemed to help. How God used her love of gardens, the gentle prodding of her family and a simple seed catalog to coax her from it. I loved feeling her attachment to her children as she struggled with them moving away or suffering losses of their own and her attempts to meet them where they were. It further interested me to find that the author of the book actually has varieties of the very lilac that Hulda did eventually produce.

I was a bit perplexed by the multitude of reviews that said they had a hard time getting into the book. It certainly isn’t an action-packed spy novel or anything, but I felt the author fleshed out a real person in real ways and did a good job of making it interesting. This was a non-stressful, relaxing, yet somehow emotional read that I enjoyed very much and would highly recommend. Not just for the beautiful cover either.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogging program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <[…]> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”