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The First Gardener

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 review with 4 star rating   See All Ratings
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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A gifted writer!

    About the book - Mackenzie London is dying. She is not dying of cancer, not of Aides, not of any other kind of disease. She is dying of a broken heart. Mack is in all but a catatonic state after the death of her daughter. This is not only about the grief that Mack is suffering from but also the grief of all those around her, her husband, Gray (the Governor of TN), her mother, Eugenia, and even the gardener, Jeremiah. They are all suffering from a broken heart as well. First they all lost a beautiful little girl in the tragedy of a car accident and now they are loosing Mackenzie to her depression as she crawls deeper and deeper into herself.
    This book is about the deepest kind of sorrow you can find - the loss of a child and then loosing the will to live.

    My review - This is just about the saddest book I have ever read. I have read almost all of Denise's books and they have all touched me in some way. She is a very gifted writer! I consider her to be one of my favorite Christian Authors
    Denise has a way with the characters in her books. You absolutely feel the pain and loss felt by Mackenzie and Gray. I loved Mack and was sad for her but was also frustrated with her at the same time. Part of me just wanted to shake her and yell "Snap out of it! Life goes on." I know that some people loose their faith in God after a great tragedy. But it is also God who is always there for us and will help us through if we allow him. We can't shut him out like Mackenzie did in our greatest time of need.

    You also feel Gray's pain. He is not only grieving the death of his daughter but now the loss of a wife. What can he do to help her as she no longer touches him or talks to him, never leaves the bedroom and won't even eat. Can he help her in time before she slips away for good? And with an upcoming election, he has the decision of running for office again or being there for his wife, or can he do both?

    Eugenia, Mack's mother is my favorite character! What a feisty old woman she is. She reminds me of Shirley McLaine in the movie "Steel Magnolias". She is trying to be the strong one, giving up her own life and moving in to take care of her adult grieving daughter, bathing her, feeding her, dressing her, all while deep inside she herself is hurting and unable to show it.
    Even thought I spent a good 3/4 of this book bawling my eyes out I also spent some time chuckling thanks to Eugenia!

    Then there is sweet old Jeremiah, the black, southern gardener for over 25 years now. He has seen pain before in the death of his own wife, but Mackenzie's grief is stealing his heart. Jeremiah is trying desperately to help Mack to heal.He listens as God speaks to his heart and tells him what to say and what flowers to give her according to their meaning.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2013

    highly recommend

    This was such a heart warming gut wrenching story. I would put this in christian fiction. It was a love story and a life lesson story. There was no foul language and the writer eluded to lovemaking between 2 people who loved each other. I would consider this a clean book, and a great read. Jeremiah was so full of wisdom with his correlation between gardening and life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2013

    Such a wonderful story!

    This book had a great story line. I look forward to reading more of this author's writings.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2012

    A great story about marriage and how tragedy can affect it. See

    A great story about marriage and how tragedy can affect it. See how God uses others in an intricate way to draw the married couple to him. An excellent and unexpected twist at the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2014

    The first gardener

    I really enjoyed this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013


    A good story even though it was depressing. Turns out okay with an unexpected revealation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2012

    Great Read

    This book hit every emotion. It is different than other books. Great read!

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  • Posted August 30, 2012

    The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth is a sad sweet story. I ha

    The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth is a sad sweet story. I had a hard time putting it down and finished it quickly. All in all a good book.

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  • Posted July 16, 2012

    Slow Blossoming Story About Grief and Love

    Gray and Mack are shattered when they lose their only child in a horrific accident. The grief, despair, and anger which follows causes a sharp juxtaposition between their personal life and their public life as the first family of Tennessee. As Mack sinks deeper into depression, Gray throws himself into his work as governor, and their sixteen year marriage slowly begins to crumble. Unable to fight for themselves, the couple finds unlikely allies in the governor's mansion gardener, a young family whose father is in prison for murder, Mack's overbearing mother and her mother's closest friends.

    The author does a great job handling the trauma and anguish that comes with losing a child. The emotions portrayed are sincere. The deteriorating relationships are handled with finesse.

    My one criticism is that the plot allows a deus ex machina ending. Yes, prayer is the only true power we wield as Christians. But a sudden switch from never-leaving-the-bed-absolute-despair to dressed-hosting-people-in-your-home-up-and-about makes the story veer suddenly in an unpredictable fashion. It comes across like the author was running out of words for the book and needed to wrap up the story quickly. The ending isn't implausible, or even improbable in real life; it just felt to me that - in the context of the story - after slipping into darkness so quickly, the turnaround climb would be far subtler and not quite as sudden. It's a small criticism, and my only one.

    Otherwise, this is a well written enjoyable story. Finished it in about 4 hours.

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  • Posted July 2, 2012

    The First Gardener

    Jeremiah is the gardener for the governor of Tennessee. He loves this family of Gray, Mackenzie and their daughter Maddie. When tragedy strikes, Jeremiah helps the family and particularly Mackenzie through her grief.

    I thought this was a well-written book and rather sad in parts. The overall story was excellent and at the end, the reader is told who Jeremiah the gardener really is.

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  • Posted June 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Heart-wrenching story of beauty from ashes

    I have never read anything from Denise Hildreth Jones before, but this was a nice introduction.
    Although the book feels pretty slow-going for the first 100 pages, don't get discouraged and put it down (which I did for a few days). Once you get further into the story, you understand why the author laid such a painstaking foundation.
    You'll see the gentle hand of God throughout the story, although sometimes that means leading His beloved through the fire of refinement, but always with enough love and grace to sustain.
    As a child who grew up witnessing my mother's many miscarriages and now facing the same tragedies with my sister, this story of a powerful couple who seemingly have it all, but just want a house full of children to share it with, really it home with me. Although its only one aspect of the story, I loved the realism of that storyline. The fact that the picture-perfect main characters, the Governor and first lady of Tennessee, face problems just like "normal" people made the story more enjoyable and relate-able.
    I also really enjoyed the setting of Nashville and Franklin, and the fact that the author chose to include many local sights and restaurants that I recognized from my many visits there.
    If you're looking for a good summer read, with enough heart to moisten your eyes and a generous portion of humor (and just plain "southern-ness") to bring you a smile, this is a book for you.

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  • Posted August 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Heartwrenching!! A story of life and faith!

    This is one of those books that you just can't put down---it's almost as if you are living with the characters and feeling their pain and heartbreak. The First Gardener was the first book I've read by Denise Hildreth Jones but it won't be the last! She has the gift of story-telling and really draws the reader in to her story. I felt so sad for Mackenzie and Gray with their attempts at having a family. To lose a child, especially in such a tragic event, must be the worst event in a mother's life-it's understandable the emotions and reactions she goes through. However, she never could deal with her grief. Her family makes attempts to help her but until Mackenzie wants to help herself, nothing will work. As in real life, the first step is to admit you have trouble but Mackenzie doesn't even get that far. Pushing down the grief isn't healthy but having been in the same circumstance many years ago, it's the hardest experience to deal with. However, I was frustrated with how her family coddled her. At some point they should have intervened to help her climb out of her depression---her health, emotional and physical, was in jeopardy. Even if it was just to reignite her faith in God and his healing grace. Yes, it's hard, but she needed that grace. Mackenzie's mom is just a hoot! And her friends even more so. They added that little relief of humor so necessary in a book like this. Even though they were an embarrassment at times, you gotta love their spunk during a time of need. And they truly cared about each other. Any negative comments to each other were always forgiven and dismissed as only good friends can do. Their belief in each other really touched my heart. But my favorite character was the gardener, Jeremiah. His deep faith in God and his garden (through God) is unshakeable. I loved how he used to language of flowers to speak to others when words just weren't enough. He took such good care of his "family" in the governor's mansion and became a confidant to those currently living there. Jeremiah is one of the people you meet and remember for the rest of your life. He reminded me of a big hug using only his words and flowers. Even with the sadness and grief, I'd give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. The characters became my friends and I hurt along with them. It's a story of real life and undeniable faith. I'll definitely be reading more of Ms Jones' books in the future! Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of The First Gardener in exchange for my personal, honest review.

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  • Posted August 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Journey of the Heart

    Gray London, governor of Tennessee and first lady MacKenzie have a 5 yr old daughter, Maddie, who was born after many years of hoping. Maddie adds life to their home and their hearts.

    Jeremiah has been tending the gardens of the govenor's house for 25 years, and 3 years of that for the London family. Jeremiah has a way of growing things and it can be said that a piece of heaven can truly be found in his backyard.

    When tragedy strikes the world stops spinning. For this family through life's turmoil and suffering, God brings understanding through the eyes and heart of an old gardener named Jeremiah.

    When MacKenzie's mother Eugenia comes to stay at the Governors home she and Jeremiah have to work hard to overcome their differences.

    A southern novel of love, loss and understanding that will touch of the heart of the reader. At times quite sad, but at others quite funny, especially with Eugenia and her friends. Excellent character development and although at times the dialect was hard to follow, it is truly a keeper novel to be enjoyed again. The author was able to portray the characters expression of grief in different ways. A true journey of the heart novel that I highly recommend.

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  • Posted August 1, 2011


    THE FIRST GARDENER by Denise Hildreth Jones is an interesting inspirational general fiction.This is an excellent story of love,loss,life,change in the season of life,gardener,faith,spiritual insight,loss of a child,with true life characters and the greatest gift of all the heart.This is inspiring story of life and its difficulties.A touching,compelling Southern story with grief,faith,hope and a valuable gift.This is a must read. This book was received for the purpose of review from the publisher. Details can be found at Tyndale House Publishers and My Book Addiction Reviews.

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  • Posted July 29, 2011

    Wonderful Characters

    In The First Gardener, Denise Hildreth Jones brings the South to life as she explores the lives of her characters, most notably Governor London, his wife Mackenzie, gardener Jeremiah, and Mackenzie's mother Eugenia. Though I have not read any of Jones's other books, her strong suit seems to be character development. Each character in The First Gardener came alive in the roughly four hundred page book, and I felt attached to each one as the story progressed. (Jeremiah is my favorite, however.) Mackenzie London, wife to Tennessee's governor, is a woman with many pent-up emotions about her difficulty in bearing children. After years of trying, her and her husband Gray were finally blessed with a precious daughter named Maddie. Now the couple are hoping for another baby, and the attempt is wearing on Mackenzie emotionally. It's an interesting aspect of the story, and key as the plot progresses. (This part of the story also makes for a few interesting passages as husband and wife discuss their trying to get pregnant. Nothing graphic, of course, but not for younger audiences, either.) Eugenia Quinn, Mackenzie's mother, is a delightfully sarcastic woman who enjoys speaking her mind. Her group of friends-comprising of Berlyn, Dimples, and Sandra-reminded me of "Steel Magnolias" characters. They're quirky and sometimes too blunt, but they're love for each other runs deep. Eugenia's disdain for Jeremiah's gardening is especially humorous. Jeremiah Williams is the loving, wise gardener at the governor's mansion. Some of the chapters are devoted entirely to his perspective on the goings-on at the mansion, and when I read anything he said I could easily picture Hoke from "Driving Miss Daisy." A key part of the story revolves around Jeremiah and his flowers; at different parts in the book he gives Mackenzie flowers that mean something important at that particular time. There's also some unknown part of Jeremiah's past that isn't revealed until the end; for me it was a big shocker. I wouldn't say he's the main character of the book, but, without his role, The First Gardener would miss something huge. Those aren't the only characters, of course, but they were the ones that stood out to me the most. This is a really charming story with interweaving moments of sadness and joy. It is Christian fiction, and thankfully the Christian aspect isn't thrown in there at the end, or preached rudely; it is a perfect fit and an important part of the story. At the end of the book, Jones says that her prayer "is that in the seasons where you need a Jeremiah, you will find him. And in the seasons where someone needs you to be a Jeremiah, that you will be him." That, in essence, is what The First Gardener is all about. (I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.)

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  • Posted July 27, 2011

    A Tale of love, loss and letting go from the Heart of Tennessee

    Governor Gray London and his wife Mackenzie are in a beautiful season of life. Their daughter Maddie is just starting Kindergarten. After trying so hard for a baby, Maddie is the center of their world. But now she's growing up. Suddenly a ground shaking tragedy takes place, rocking Gray and Mackenzie's faith to the core. Mackenzie falls into a deep depression, while Gray mourns on his own. Jeremiah Williams, the gardener brings Mackenzie a different flower nearly everyday, each with its own special meaning hoping to help heal her broken heart.

    Come down south, and meet a bounty of unforgettable characters that will have you laughing, crying, and ranting right along with them. This book leaves no emotion untouched! Let the characters steal your heart in the latest release from Denise Hildreth Jones.

    The First Gardener is gem of an emotional read that thoroughly touches your heart in a variety of ways. It was hard to put down to the very end, yet at the same time hard to read during particular parts due to certain plot twists. What I really liked about this book was the realness of the characters, their dialog, and their emotions. Each character was distinctly unique and likable in their own wonderful way. I particularly liked Jeremiah, with his unique way of saying things in a way that was so real and honest, yet with a completely fresh, sometimes hilarious spin to it. Some of the story was told from Jeremiah's point of view, and I found myself looking forward to those parts most as I read this book. Jeremiah is definitely the kind of character who will warm your heart in a thousand different ways.

    Ms. Hildreth Jones has a beautiful lilt and rhythm to her writing, and the humorous quips were priceless! I really enjoyed this book, though at first I wasn't sure if I would. It's a little different for me, but I would definitely recommend it now, having read it. Overall it presented an inspiring message of love, loss, letting go, and forgiveness, filled with hope and heart.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    This book was hard to read. Not because it was poorly written or because the characters didn't speak to me. They did. I read a lot of fiction and a few non-fiction titles a year. This is one of those fictional titles that reads almost like non-fiction. The setting is so contemporary and the issues are ones that could have been grabbed from newspaper headlines running this year. Some of it felt so familiar that I believed I was going to read it was based on a true story.

    It was a painful story of love, loss, grief and healing.

    The lovely bits about the flowers interspersed was interesting. Jeremiah's voice is strong and has a thick southern accent. I enjoyed the way he sparred with Eugenia. There are wonderful relationship dynamics in the book between all the characters. The author really pulled off writing about people instead of creating them. I want to thank Tyndale for providing my copy in exchange for this honest review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2011


    The First Gardener is one of those book that teaches you life lessons and softens your heart. When I read this book I completely fell in love with it.

    Jerimiah Williams tended Tennessee mansion governor's gardens for over 25 years. The thing is Mackenzie and her husband have a child that they love so much. The child's name is Maddie. Mackenzie and her husband send Maddie to kindergarten but an accident occurs. Mackenzie and her husband are in deep depression. Jerimiah helps mend the hearts of the two parents using his gardening skills.

    This book is wonderfully written. It makes the reader think more towards life and lets them understand to treasure every precious moment. It teaches them about faith and softens their hearts. This book is a great read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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