The Garden of Eve
Written by K.L. Going
Reviewed by The Discriminating Fangirl
Evie’s beloved, imaginative mother has recently died of cancer, and her father decides to move from their home and family in Michigan to an abandoned apple farm in New York. The locals whisper that the orchard is cursed; the trees are blighted and nothing grows in the town of Beaumont, not the crops nor the economy.
An old woman from town befriends the broken family and tells them her history in their decrepit old house. It was her family home, and her older sister disappeared decades earlier, around the same time the apple trees began to die. Adding to the mystery, the old woman gives Evie a very strange gift: a seed said to have been found in the Garden of Eden.
Evie and her only friend in Beaumont, the ghost of a boy who recently died of cancer, plant the seed deep in the dead orchard and discover exactly why nothing will grow in the town. The magic tree takes them to a parallel world, a lush, gardened mirror of their own.
This book is seriously bleak. Evie isolates herself from her father, and often wishes that she could have died with her mother, a thought that is somewhat startling in a ten year old character. Her father’s own emotional remoteness pushes Evie even farther away from her familiar, comfortable world, and it’s as if the little girl never had a chance to truly grieve her mother.
Despite this, I never really began to empathize with Evie, or really any of the characters, in this book. Evie’s father seems selfish in his internal mourning, and the supporting characters feel more like they exist solely to forward Evie’s development instead of existing as characters in their own right.
In fact, I’m having a difficult time writing this review. I didn’t particularly dislike this book, but it also didn’t make an impact on me. The book has plenty of potential; the descriptions of the flourishing parallel town are beautiful, and the characters feel like they have a lot of potential to be fleshed out. But they never quite make it past existing to tell the story, and unfortunately, the story suffers because of this.
For me, the point of this story was hope in the face of grief. Evie learns that she shouldn’t wish for death just to be with her mother; she has more life ahead of her, and her mother would never have wanted her beautiful, imaginative little girl to lose hope. This is a great message for anyone who has lost a loved one, but unfortunately, the story doesn’t feel fleshed out enough to carry the weight of the message.
Maybe in after another draft or two, this book could have delivered its message in the framework of a much stronger story. As it stands, the book delivers its message, but not in a way that’s as memorable or as heartbreaking as it should be.