Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening:
How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb & an Open Heart by Carol Wall
Reviewed by Will Godwin (Father of a former BookPeople bookseller)
“It’s been a long winter…. I’m talking about a personal season of illnesses, surgeries, deaths, divisions, and waning spirits in my family circles.”
In the midst of this winter, I read Carol Wall’s memoir, Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart. The “guide” tells the story of a friendship that blooms into a cultural and spiritual exchange about the seasons of our human condition and the patience and understanding needed to harvest the beauty and bounty from this earth and this life.
Carol Wall is a 50-something year-old woman empty-nesting in southern Virginia, where (as everywhere) tacit assumptions about differences between people create cultural rules and social divides. Her prideful desire to keep up with the neighbors’ landscaping leads her to stalk Mr. Owita, whose prowess with the earth has run the local gossip circuit.
Mr. Owita is Kenyan. His story is revealed to Ms. Wall as their friendship deepens in the course of exchanges and subtle conflicts over what to do with her garden. Mr. Owita’s approach to gardening and his life is a continuous revelation to Carol Wall as she faces the physical and spiritual challenges of a prolonged battle with breast cancer.
Ms. Wall and Mr. Owita not only address the challenges of her garden, but become supportive friends to each other as both address life and death situations in their respective lives.
Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening will carry a river of readers to a spiritual destination. An aesthetic, poetic pleasure to read; the expressive prose brings a clear and emotional message of ultimate hope and graceful strength and endurance in the face of personal trial and mortality.
Copies of Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.