Friday, May 18, 2012

Betty's (Little Basement) Garden, by Laurel Dewey


The Story Plant, ISBN 97816118, June 2012

Betty Craven is in her late fifties, elegant, classy, a perfectionist, and a gardener with a prize-winning garden. She's the embodiment of Colorado respectability.

She's also a widow with a limited income, an unsaleable house in disrepair, a dead son whom she grieves far more than her late husband, and a steadily worsening pain in her neck. She invested the money from her husband in starting a gourmet chocolate shop--in 2009. It did not survive, and all she has left is her chocolate-making equipment. And because she is driven to maintain the image of perfection and respectability, she doesn't even have anyone to confide in. Betty is even quietly selling off the antiques and artwork she and her husband collected over the course of their marriage, just to pay the bills and do the most basic of repairs to the house.

All of that sounds pretty grim, I know. But that's just the background, and this is a fun book.

One of Betty's oldest and dearest friends is dying of cancer, and Betty brings her a box of chocolates. She meets Peggy's nephew, a clearly disreputable young man who nevertheless loves his aunt. She leaves the chocolates with him. When he calls her to say that Peggy is dying and wants to see Betty once more, she comes--and Peggy is relaxed, comfortable, happy. It's a wonderful last visit.

A few days later, he tells Betty that that he melted down her chocolates and remade them with marijuana, and that's why Peggy was so comfortable in her last hours. Colorado has legalized medical marijuana, and he's a "caregiver," a licensed grower providing marijuana to up to five people. He leads Betty on her first steps in a direction she never imagined she would go.

Betty meets the owner of a health food store, and a man who knew her son during the last, lost year of his life, and finds out secrets about her friends that she never suspected.  She finds out she was never meant to be conventional and respectable; there's a long-suppressed free spirit dwelling within her. When Betty starts a secret little garden in her basement, to match the very public one outside her home, she has barely begun her adventures, terrifying and funny and warm and wonderful.

Get to know Betty; you'll love her.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.