Jamie Langston Turner: A Garden to Keep

I found out A Garden to Keep is part of a series (The Derby Series) right before typing this post. I don’t know if I can stomach another long-winded journal, so I probably won’t seek out any of the others in this series.

Now don’t get me wrong, I found the progression of Elizabeth’s thoughts toward God and her marriage interesting, but it just took so incredibly long for me to get through this book.

Hard warning: If you don’t like stream-of-consciousness writing, let this one go. The entire book is Elizabeth’s story told directly to you as if you were in her head and she is recounting the past four to six months of her life. For instance (not actually from the book, FYI):

I remember when I broke up with my first real boyfriend. His name was Jeremy and we didn’t have a great relationship the entire four months, but it wasn’t all bad. Now before I get to the part where we actually broke up, I have to tell you about flying to Maine at Christmas to meet his parents for the first time—after three months, crazy, I know. We had to transfer to this itty bitty puddle jumper after being on a lovely aircraft with TVs and snacks, and that thing scared the life out of me—any time I can walk on and off a plane without that big metal connector thing, the plane is too small. Well there was an Indian woman sitting on the plane between us, and I was watching Legally Blonde—the one where she’s at the sorority house, not it was House Bunny—and the lady fell asleep and was practically laying on my shoulder. But that was the big plane and has little to do with the little scary one, but it just made me think about it. Now the day we broke up, I remember calling my Godmother right after Jeremy and I decided not to continue our relationship. No, she called me, and she was very confused as to why I was telling her about the breakup while sitting next to my now ex-boyfriend. But my Godmother is a beautiful woman, she reminds me so much of my mother and I love the two of them dearly.

See how that works….That, my friends, is how Elizabeth Landis tells the story of how her husband left their home and how she was introduced to Christ. I wouldn’t say the book is overly religious, but her newfound Christianity is instrumental in shaping her attitude toward her husband after he leaves their home. Elizabeth is also obsessed with poetry and there had to have been a hundred references to specific poems within those pages—even the chapter titles are lines from poems. I did look up and read some of the poems she referenced, but not all—I’m much more into prose.

I think Elizabeth Landis is overly attached to her son, and she allowed that to detach her from her husband. I do like that she evaluated her missteps as a wife even as she was blaming her husband for the dissolution of their marriage. She does come to terms with her own stuff, and even asks if she failed her son as a mother just has she failed her husband as a wife. The actual four month period of Elizabeth going to church, her husband leaving, and her decision that she wants both God and her husband doesn’t take up much space, but Turner had to fill 400 pages somehow. Elizabeth not only analyzes her own marriage, but that of those around her—her best friend from the old neighborhood, the woman who introduces her to Christ, her in-laws, and even the beautifully strange couple across the street from her home.

If you’re not into Christian Fiction, marriage talk, or a character’s randomly strewn together thoughts, you won’t like this book. I never regret reading anything—just like my movie-watching habits, my book reading is indiscriminate—so I can’t say not to pick it up, but you have been warned. I have no intentions of reading anything else by Turner, however, if the other books in the series are written differently there’s a small (very small) chance I will look into another one.

In my next post…I hope I will have finally finished reading 1984, but we’ll see.

Happy Reading!! 🙂