A middle-aged widow moves to the East Coast to start a new life in this novel.
When Vivi’s husband, Jake, commits suicide, he leaves her with substantial debt. He was an aspiring but fruitless Hollywood writer with his partner and adulterous lover, Carol. But when Carol actually sells a script, she decides that it’s hers alone and she owes Vivi nothing. Vivi opts to leave California for the East Coast. Now in her 50s, she struggles to land a job in a retail store’s garden department, notwithstanding her experience as “a landscape designer and garden consultant in California.” She does have a friend in New England: Vikram, Jake’s old college roommate, with whom Vivi shared at least one night of intimacy. Unfortunately, Vikram may not be the same man she once cared for. All the while, Vivi’s past haunts her, as Jake appears in her dreams. Vivi, who lost two children during pregnancies, dreams of a mysterious child as well. She eventually meets Amanda, a single woman in her late 60s who, like Vivi, has suffered a husband’s betrayal. Starting over for either woman is far from easy, even when a handsome, 30-something man named Cheyenne enters their lives. Merson’s tale is sometimes despondent. For example, though Vivi wishes to move on, she can’t help but reflect on past tragedies, from her miscarriages to a troubled marriage. Still, the novel is not without a sense of humor. As part of the hiring process, Vivi’s boss-to-be sends her to tarot reader Tara for, it seems, an appraisal. Vivi continues seeing Tara in dynamic scenes that play out like therapy sessions. The author offers plenty of vibrant details about the gardens Vivi develops and nourishes. Unfortunately, gardening sometimes becomes a conspicuous metaphor. For example, Vivi fears that one character who’s sick with cancer “will judge her health on the growing of the blooms outside her windows” and “will hate them if they flourish or weep if they crumble and die, as she is doing.”
A lively, melodramatic story about new beginnings.