Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Care and Handling of Roses With Throns by Margaret Dilloway

I'm just going to start off from the beginning by saying that I absolutely loved this book. This was an ARC that was sent to me last year and the book came out in August of last year :/ Sadly, I'm just getting to it now, but thank god I did get to it because it was such a beautiful, wonderful book with perfectly flawed characters that are impossible not to fall in love with. The book couldn't have had a more perfect title.

Gal is many things. She grows and hybridizes roses creating her own new breeds, she's a high school science teacher which she teaches with a passion, she's an aunt who has suddenly had her teenage neice thrust upon her as her own child, she's a friend to just a few close acquaintances, she's a competitior when it comes to the roses she breeds, and she's a woman in need of a kidney transplant. Gal has needed a new kidney for a long time now. As a child she lost both kidneys and has had to have dialysis every other night for years as she continues to wait for a donor kidney. This limits her life to what she can eat and drink and the amount of strenuous activity she can do.

The one passion that Gal devotes all of her energy to is her roses and this was one of my very favorite parts of the book. I loved when Gal was with her roses, pruning them, treating them, inspecting them, hoping for a new rose to form, educating others on her roses. She enters her roses in competitions where she often doesn't have the best rose and she knows so, but she enjoys going anyway and learning from others and making connections.

Gal's world turns upside down though when her niece, Riley, suddenly turns up on her doorstep. Riley is the child of Gal's irresponsible sister who Gal has often feuded with. Her sister has taken a job in China for a few months and Gal now finds herself the guardian for Riley, a young teenager clad in black and quite delicate, not unlike Gal's roses.

What I absolutely LOVED about this book is that it could've gone in so many predictable directions. I'm not going to name them all for fear of spoiling the book, but I will say that I really.....I appreciated what the author did. Gal was not a character that I always liked, though I did love her. Her niece was someone who drove me nuts sometimes, but I felt for her. Dilloway did not put Gal into the "I have a possible terminal illness so therefore you have to love me and feel pity for me all the time" category. No, Gal can get on your last nerve sometimes. And she let Gal express the "unfairness of it all" that I'm sure some people feel sometimes when they're going through what she's going through in the book that we don't always see in books like these. Her friends don't always like her and point it out to her. She has days where she wilts and cries, but she has other days where she just refuses to even acknowledge she has an illness. She has days where she wants to hug the hell out of her niece and days where she wants to just send her away. In other words, she's human. Not a novelized perfectly painted picture...or a rose that's been stripped of it's thorns.

No, here we have a collection of characters that are all beautiful in their own different ways, but all have their own weaknesses, their own imperfections. Though I don't even know if "weaknesses" and "imperfections" are the right words. Because having a bad day is NOT a bad thing. We're all allowed that. None of us are perfect. I should say these characters are all human and not a masterpiece that the author has warped into perfection. Just such a beautiful that I really didn't think I was going to cry while reading, but ended up getting me. Oh...and I ended up learning a lot about roses along the way and wanting to grow some of my own ;)


Beth F said...

Oh I loved this one -- the rose metaphor worked so well. And even if there were few surprises, it was still a wonderful read.

Amy said...

I am always hearing so many good things about this book and STILL haven't read it. I'm going to tr to fix that soon.

Susan said...

I have to read this! Not just for the roses, but to read about a character with an illness that she struggles with. There are so few characters like that in fiction, and I have good days and bad with diabetes. Definitely a book I will look for, thanks for the review, Chris.

Debi said...

It does sound pretty awesome, Chris. I'm not a huge rose fan...wonder if this book could change my mind. :)

Vasilly said...

Now I want to read this! Great review, Chris.

Bookfool said...

*SOLD* That's all I have to say. ;)