In this moving memoir chronicling the many lasting rewards garnered from an unexpected friendship, writer Wall enlists a neighbor’s gardener, a man from Kenya, to help her maintain her garden. What begins as a purely professional relationship, with Wall hoping to learn more about gardening, blossoms into an intimate friendship. Wall, a breast cancer patient, admits that, before she met Giles Owita, her outlook on life was less than sunny. Always an introvert and prone to social gaffes, Wall was dealing at the time with her parent’s decline. Slowly, over three years, Owita, a quiet and unassuming man, transforms Wall’s unkempt lawn into a living masterpiece, showing Wall the beauty inherent in everyday life. While transmitting the knowledge for growing a bountiful garden, Owita passes along how one might live a satisfying life. “Each time I walked away from Giles, I felt either enlightened by his brilliance or unburdened of some of my worries and sadness.” Wall eventually learns of the personal, family and health issues endured by her friend, marveling at his grace and strength. This tender narrative gently probes the complicated terrain of American race relations, dealing with serious illness and facing the death of loved ones. Agent: Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff Literary. (Mar.)
In this profoundly moving memoir, Owita teaches Wall how to find grace amid heartbreak and to accept that beauty exists because it is fleeting—as in her garden, as in life.” —People, 4 stars
“In this lovely memoir, a surprising friendship blooms between a horticulturist with a harrowing secret and the author, a cancer survivor with a bad attitude and a sad yard. A perfect spring awakening.”—Good Housekeeping
"No green thumb is required to enjoy the warmhearted pleasures of Carol Wall's moving memoir, Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening.... magnetically compelling ... Grace and gardening go hand-in-glove in this fine book about what really matters in life: friendship, kindness and watching a garden grow." —USA Today
“With her children grown and out of the house, Carol Wall is obsessed—perhaps overly so—with ripping out her azaleas. That is, until she meets a certain Giles Owita, Kenyan gardener, supermarket bagger, general-life philosopher and perhaps one of the most refined and gracious characters to ever hit the page (except that he’s real)… A warning for the shy: The basic goodness of Owita’s attitude may cause you to beam spontaneously as you read, leading to off looks from strangers at the coffee shop.” —Oprah.com
"A must-read memoir.... Both shocking and profoundly moving. This book is not just about gardening." —AARP blog
“In this heartbreaking yet heartwarming paean to the joys of friendship and gardening, Wall crafts an elegiac tribute to an extraordinary man.” —Booklist
"[T]his memoir chronicl[es] the many lasting rewards garnered from an unexpected friendship..." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A pleasure to read. Wall’s bittersweet story of human kindness has universal appeal." —Kirkus Reviews
"I couldn’t put this book down. I found myself liking the principal characters from the opening pages, and my affection for them never wavered. If you enjoy inspirational memoirs or gardening books (or both), this moving account of a life-changing friendship is for you." —Bookpage
Wall, a white woman with grown children who had survived illness and was now contemplating her next move, noticed a black man working hard in a neighbor's yard. Giles Owita, who had come from Kenya and bagged groceries to make ends meet, was soon cleaning Wall's yard, too. They became friends, bonding over secrets they've both hidden, and the result is this much-touted memoir.
Serendipitous life lessons from an unexpected source. Though she admittedly lacked the green thumb (or the inclination) necessary to beautify the environs of her home, 52-year-old Wall enlisted the aid of her neighbor's gifted Kenyan gardener. Giles Owita, an unassuming landscape artist outfitted with a "coiled energy" and a "navy work suit with bright white leather tennis shoes," not only beautified Wall's yard; their seemingly innocent relationship opened her eyes to international culture and nature ("Giles broke me—cured me—of my dread of flowers") and expanded her capacity for bliss. His arrival in her life was a timely one, as the author and her husband, Dick, had endured a year shaken by tragedy and illness. A breast cancer survivor, Wall had begun the heartbreaking ordeal of relocating her elderly parents to an assisted living facility, and her three children all suffered medical and developmental maladies. Throughout their many seasons together, Wall and Owita embarked on a cross-cultural exchange of histories, ideas, warm wisdom, respect and reinvigorating landscapes. Through her neighbor, the author discovered Owita's surprisingly extensive horticultural education and a series of mutual commonalities, including familial strife and a cancer diagnosis. The pair, along with Owita's wife, Bienta, grew ever closer within a unique friendship that Wall, in consistently articulate, affably crafted prose, compares to "a river that sometimes split into two separate streams, but always came back together again." Subtle changes began to transform Wall's outlook on life, and gradually, the author allowed herself to appreciate the grand spectacle of her lush backyard oasis. Owita not only performed an aesthetic miracle on Wall's property, but he also educated, enlivened and transformed her life and surroundings in graceful, heartwarming and rewarding ways. A pleasure to read. Wall's bittersweet story of human kindness has universal appeal.