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“This is a book to read more than once.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author
“If Julie Cantrell isn’t on your reading list, she should be.” —Lisa Wingate, national bestselling author
When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.
Eva Sutherland—known to all as Lovey—grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.
At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.
When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.
Lovey is drawn in to a secret project—a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, learning how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.
Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Julie Cantrell is an award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novelist whose work focuses on relationships, resilience, and faith. As a writer, speaker, TEDx presenter, and teacher, she aims to build empathy and connection while inspiring others to live their best life.
Julie served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and has received the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship as well as the Rivendell Writer’s Colony Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship.
A certified speech-language pathologist (SLP), Julie is a literacy advocate who previously served on the board of her local literacy council. Dedicated to helping children overcome social, academic, and communication challenges, Julie has filled various gaps when called to serve her local public school system as an SLP, a reading interventionist, an ELL tutor, and a special education sub.
Julie also spent six years operating her family’s sustainable farm where she tended organic crops while caring for a wide variety of furry and feathered friends. She is a certified naturalist who enjoys exploring this beautiful world. Additionally, she has operated a freelance writing business for almost twenty years.
Today, Julie writes fulltime from her home in Oxford, Mississippi. Perennials is her fourth novel.
Read an Excerpt
May 2016 Phoenix, Ar izona
"At what point do we admit we get paid to lie?" My assistant, Brynn, eyes the empty conference room down the hall, then the clock. The biggest campaign of our career is on the line, and with less than an hour before our big meeting, today's the day we seal the deal. Or lose it.
"I prefer to think of it as a little coat of shine." I pass her a tin of Altoids, hoping the sweet sting of peppermint will ease her nerves.
I wasn't always a liar, but time has worn me down, and I now find truth a watery thing to hold. It's been decades since I spent long, leafy summers clipping crinum lilies from Mother's gardens, playing in the shadow of trees. I've replaced soil with salary, literature with lunch meetings, and all things Southern with a dry Arizona predictability.
Here in this Phoenix high-rise, I now earn big rewards for veiling the truth. Although within the buzzing corporate hive known as Apogee, we prefer the more respectable term — advertising.
Brynn replies, mint pinned like a marble against her cheek. "Presentation set to view. Leave-behinds stacked at each seat. Rose water chilled." When I offer a grateful grin, she adds, "You taught me well." A brown braid falls from her shoulder, revealing a tattoo beneath the ruffled sleeve. Youth, she's still got it. I don't.
I straighten my skirt, a modest knit I chose from Jansana's latest line, hoping to please my clients. "Now, power stance." I take the position of Wonder Woman, inching my legs hip-distance apart with hands on waist and chin held high. My strawberry-blonde locks, tightly cropped, are fighting gray strands that seem determined to stake their claim.
Lifting her arms into a victory V, Brynn aims for a double dose of superpower. It's a trick we learned from a TED Talks video, our latest obsession. We hold it for the two-minute span, and then she reacts. "It really does work!" She stretches her spine a bit straighter, surging with confidence.
Offering an I-told-you-so wink, I rearrange a vase of Mexican elder, a broad burst of flowers I clipped on the way into the tower this morning, a sign of good luck. In these parts the white clusters can fade from the tree by early spring, but we're far into May already and they're still producing their notable cloud-like blooms, a rebellious showing my mother would appreciate.
I push the vase to the side of my desk and close my planner. It's been color coded to keep me organized, providing a detailed task list for each and every day. When the bright-blue tab snags my sleeve, I can no longer ignore its labeled reminder: Annual Personal Goals. I jot myself a quick note: Reassessment due.
Then I lead the way to our fourteenth-floor conference room where we will soon welcome Jansana's CEO, president, and chair of their all-female board. Known as The Trio, these women have launched one of the most successful activewear companies in the world, a multibillion-dollar corporation recognized for trendy yoga gear and celebrity endorsers. If we play our cards right, they'll hire us to handle their advertising, a goal I've had for at least five years.
I fiddle with the silver chain around my neck. The dime-size charm weighs against the hollow of my throat. It's the symbol of an hourglass, a graduation gift from my parents. Engraved with the words Your time is now, it serves as a daily reminder that the sands are always shifting, that life won't wait for any of us.
"We get this one shot, Brynn. One."
In response, Brynn breaks out in the famous Eminem song "Lose Yourself," singing the catchy "one shot" phrase about making the most of life's opportunities. She nails the rap rhythm with ease while I prepare the presentation, tweaking the angle for optimal lighting. Her youthful performance delivers a pierce of envy to my ribs, but laughter wins and I offer a playful bow of respect. She's earned it.
"Always swore I'd never sell out." Brynn settles into one of the twelve chairs, spinning her pen atop the oval table. "Two years in the Peace Corps and now look at me." She tilts her laptop my way, noting the new spreadsheet as proof we've each become one of the minions.
I give the stats a sideways glance, then turn my attention to the flash of yellow creosote out the window, a fresh burst of bloom to follow yesterday's scant dose of rain. "I wanted to be a horticulturist," I admit. "Florist. Flower farmer. Someone who comes home with dirt on my hands at the end of the day."
I get lost in my childhood fantasy of living happily ever after on a small Southern farm, growing eggplants and bell peppers, selling poppies and peonies. "That was before my sister ran me out of my own life." My stomach clenches. "It's ironic, really. Bitsy was the fact bender, not me."
"Good ol' Bitsy." Brynn gives her best Scarlett O'Hara impression, lifting her eyes to the side with a long, slow blink, as if she's in that posh marriage bed telling Rhett Butler, "I'm thinking about how rich we are."
"Three years older and a whole world wiser. At least that's what she'd tell you."
"Yeah, but she's a liar," Brynn jests, exaggerating the trigger word. After years of hearing me talk about my family, she thinks she's got us all figured out.
I start a pot of coffee, allowing the fragrant French roast to carry me home to my mother's kitchen. While the brew bubbles, I arrange cranberry scones and give Brynn another piece of my childhood. "I was eleven when Bitsy blamed me for setting fire to my mother's gardening shed. It was the first time I called her a liar. Chief didn't like that one bit."
I don't say how I longed to be my father's favorite, how it stung when he would choose Bitsy to sit beside him in the truck, letting her shift the gear stick every time he popped the clutch.
"I get it." Brynn rolls her eyes. "My sister's a drama queen too."
"That shed burned down more than thirty years ago, and I can still smell the stench of melted lawn mower tires."
"That would be pretty hard to forget." Brynn tilts her chair, rolls her pen through her bangs.
What I don't say is that Bitsy's fire burned more than Mother's shed. Much more. But the memory of Fisher rushing from the flames, his younger brother, Finn, ablaze in his arms, well, that part of the story has never found voice.
Our curious barn cat watched the entire act unfold, her amber eyes peering between fence posts, her wet black nose poking through to investigate the happenings of the farm. The cat knew the truth. Bitsy knew the truth. I knew the truth. But my parents, well, if they knew the truth, they weren't saying. And that nearly killed me.
"Sounds like you're feeling a little homesick today." Brynn pulls a card from her tote bag, then slides the envelope my way. It reads, Happy Birthday, Eva!
"You remembered?" At forty-five I'm way too old to expect anyone to recognize my birthday, but as I tear open the seal, I'm blushing like a schoolgirl. The image depicts an army of firefighters rushing in to extinguish a cake set aflame by countless candles. Inside is the inscription, Who says old ladies aren't hot?
"Funny." I drag the syllables, then smile.
She shrugs. "I do hope some sexy firemen show up at your door today." She has countered the comedy by placing a small pack of cosmos seeds inside the card, signing with pristine penmanship: Thanks for being the kindest soul in the cosmos. Wish big!
I shake the seeds against their paper shell, a sound much like the flutter of wings. The gift warms my heart. "I do love flowers."
"I know," Brynn boasts, and I pull her in for a hug, grateful she walked into my Arizona office seven years ago in need of an internship. Who knew this scrappy millennial would, in time, become my best friend? "We're also getting tattoos. My treat."
Like many her age, Brynn has inked herself to chart the milestones of her brief thirty years. The one in view is a henna-style elephant commemorating her two-year stint in India. Noting my reluctance, she pleads her case. "Come on, you can get one that only shows up under black light. Your mother will never know."
"Oh, trust me. She'd know." No matter how many years and miles we have between us, I still fear I'll let my mother down.
Today, I am about as far from Oxford, Mississippi, as life could take me. Fifteen hundred and thirty-six miles from the family farm and Bitsy's lies, the smoldering shed, and Chief's disappointed stare. From this high-rise view Arizona offers not a single magnolia. No pink-tinged azaleas or fragrant gardenias. Certainly no carpeted fields of clover. As I prepare my presentation, I am no longer the cross-my-heart-hope-to-die truth teller in pigtails. In fact, I now spend my days doing exactly what Bitsy taught me to do best. To lie. And not just to lie, but to keep everybody coming back for more.
"Eva, come in." Our new chief creative officer stands near the window looking like Lisa Rinna, coffee in hand. Her mug's inscription makes a stark statement: Deal with it.
I grit my teeth and enter. A middle-aged powerhouse, she took the position less than a month ago and has already laid off 20 percent of our team. Known as "The Dragon," she's the last person I want to deal with this morning. Or ever.
"Was on my way to the reception area," I explain. "Meeting The Trio at ten."
"Thought you might like a little pep talk before they arrive." She doesn't offer me a seat, so I stand beneath an abstract painting with bright-orange circles stamped across darker shades of blue. As if chosen to complement the art, her navy business suit fits tapered at the waist, a fashion that feels far too serious for our creative firm where even top executives appreciate a quirky sense of style. Framed certificates, awards, and diplomas claw the wall behind her, but there are no family portraits, no vacation pictures, no handmade drawings sketched by young children. No sign of a life beyond this.
"I like you, Eva. I do, so I'm going to tell you all you need to know to seal this deal."
Knowing she has threatened every employee with layoffs and benefit cuts, I doubt she cares one bit about my success, but I listen respectfully, eyeing the clock.
"You want to stay alive? Follow two rules." She taps her manicured nail on her mug as she lists each point. "Never admit you're wrong. And never say you're sorry."
Before I can respond, the hour hand hits ten and I am called to greet The Trio. I politely excuse myself, grateful for the rescue.
Right on time, I lead our top-tier clients to the conference room. "Have a seat," I invite. "Enjoy brunch." They are counting on me to convince the masses that in order to achieve personal peace and harmony, they need to purchase a hip pair of Jansana yoga pants. Plus a mat, straps, blocks, wedges, and eco-friendly water bottles. Doesn't matter one bit if I believe it. I have to make other people believe it. So I've learned to charm my way through it, despite the buzz of my own conscience.
Brynn serves as a hospitable host, doling out pastries while asking how they prefer their coffee. I lead a round of small talk, filling chilled glasses with rose water and topping each with a delicate pink petal the way Mother taught me to do. These women may be movers and shakers in the Arizona business world, but one should never underestimate the power of good old-fashioned Southern etiquette.
Once everyone is served, I prime them with a brief overview of Jansana's advertising history, playing highlights of their company's past commercials while comparing them with top competitors.
"Here's the thing." I spotlight an image of an athletically fit model as she strikes crow pose. Wearing a fashionable pair of Jansana yoga pants, she presses her hands into the mat, her fingers resting just above the famous logo. "We all know nobody really needs this gear. I lead a yoga class every Saturday in Sedona. I teach old ladies in sweatpants and we do just fine."
The chairwoman smirks. A previous head of the Legacy Ball, she's a society heavyweight and the idea of sweatpants seems to humor her, exactly as I hoped.
I display a clip of our Saturday yoga session, Seniors at Sunrise. After nearly three years of intense exercise and the strenuous process to become an instructor, I have worked hard to wear Jansana's Lycra pants without shame. So has Marian, a ninety-year-old widow in even better shape than me.
Unlike the other seniors, Marian's body is lean and defined as she moves through a familiar twelve-pose rotation, shifting her flexible frame from mountain pose to mountain pose with lunges, planks, and folds in between. I use the lingo, reminding The Trio I know yoga and I'm the one to sell it to the world.
The final image shows Marian and me, our hands folded at heart center, our muscles taut beneath our unforgiving pants. "So how do we sell something nobody really needs?" I ask. "First, we acknowledge it's not a need. It's a want. A reward for making our personal well-being a priority. We practice yoga because we want to feel better. We wear Jansana for the same reason."
I display clips of women wearing the company's products. A mother crossing the finish line of a 10K, her toddlers laughing in the jogging stroller as she propels them through the race. A grandmother tackling rapids in a bright-yellow kayak, her granddaughter rowing bravely alongside.
"What do you think when you see these people? Better yet, what do you feel?"
The chairwoman leans in, smiling, and I seize the moment. "Yes, that! We want to stir emotions. See? That's key. We feel inspired. These are the kind of mindful citizens we all want to be." Two heads are nodding and the third is tilted, intrigued. I keep sharing images of positive people as they practice yoga, meditate, and bike. "We don't sell gym gear. We sell an attitude — products that foster a healthy mind, body, and spirit." As the images rotate, the marketing slogan is tagged beneath each: "Feel good. Do good. Be the good. Jansana."
When the last screen is presented, the CEO lifts her glass of rose water. "Thank you, Eva." The moments drag as she takes a sip. Swallows. Then returns the glass to the slick surface with a slight clink. "I like your approach. But is anyone else concerned this may be a little too ... cliché? Cute grandmas? Kumbaya?"
Silence all around. No smiles. My pulse quickens, but I don't yet offer a defense. In the quiet I count to ten, a trick Mother taught me back in second grade, saying it would help "cool my beans when a hot head started to show itself."
The president thumbs through the leave-behind, examining the media buy, the timeline, the budget.
"It's not the most original tagline. But that's why I'm certain it will relate." I move closer to the CEO, who's still with me. "There is power in the familiar. And in this case, we're aiming to bridge current trends and root values. Combine the old with the new, which is essentially the entire purpose of yoga."
She eyes her partners, holding the poker face I've seen many times.
"Here's the thing." I turn off the projection. "We can twist these figures any way we choose. But if we really want to sell yoga gear — sell anything — we have to tell a story. A story that tugs their hearts so much they'll want to enter the narrative. They'll buy Jansana because they want to be Jansana. See?"
With the slightest rise of her lip corner, the CEO finally nods.
Then the president breaks into a smile. "Strong work, Eva." When she stands, the others follow her lead. "I'm ready to roll with this." She adjusts her suit. Tailored to accentuate her Jansana-esque figure, the Chanel tweed doesn't show a single crease. "Set a production schedule?"
"By Monday," I assure her, escorting the three executives back to the elevator. Their spiked steps combine to form a symphony of ticks and tocks, each thud moving us closer to deadline, closer to payday, and farther from truth.
By the time I make it back to my desk, Brynn is already celebrating. "Nailed it." She gives me a high five. "And on your birthday! Happy hour. Tonight. No excuses."
I throw a glance toward the oversize clock, a contemporary piece that fills the entire wall with its jolting ticks. Then I look north toward Sedona, eager to begin my two-hour route to my weekend home.
Excerpted from "Perennials"
Copyright © 2017 Julie Cantrell.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Perennials is a story of a Mississippi family: estranged siblings and loving parents. Eva leaves Oxford to escape the lies her sister, Bitsey, continued to tell about her. She goes on to establish a successful career in Arizona but something is missing. When her father calls for her to come home early for her parents 50th anniversary, Eva is fearful that something is wrong. She returns to Oxford and finds Bitsey to be an antagonistic as ever. She helps work on a "prayer garden" for her mom's anniversary present. There are multiple story lines that finally converge with Eva and Bitsey learning to let go of old wounds and love again. I received this novel from Thomas Nelson to read and review. I expected a Christian novel. Much of the "spirituality" in the novel is based in Buddhism, the Buddhist prayer wheel, and Native American beliefs. Eva even has two "visions." If Cantrell brings this in this to show just how far Eva has come from the girl she was in Mississippi, it would be understandable, but she doesn't return to her former faith. The reader needs to be aware of this.
Perennials is a new novel by Julie Cantrell. Eva “Lovely” Sutherland grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. Thanks to her sister, Bitsy and her lies, Eva was quick to move to Phoenix when she turned eighteen. Laurel and Chief Sutherland will be celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary soon and they would like Eva to return home early. Eva just landed the account of her career with a tight deadline, but she agrees to return home. Unfortunately, Bitsy has not changed and is antagonistic (bitter, nasty, jealous). Eva helps her father plan a special memory garden as a surprise for her mother. It gives Eva a chance to work with her friend and former boyfriend, Fisher Oaklen as well as remember her dream of becoming a flower farmer. Eva is given an opportunity to look back on her life and decide what she wants for her future. Is it possible to go home again? Can Bitsy and Eva get past their differences? Perennials is a spiritual novel (not Christian) with focus on Buddhism. Yoga and Buddhism are frequently mentioned throughout the story (Buddhist prayer wheel, yoga poses, etc.). The one Christian thing mentioned repeatedly is “Judas has a story” (two sides to every story). Julie Cantrell is a descriptive writer. She paints a picture with words. Ms. Cantrell describes nature (flowers, trees, birds) and the town in detail. Some of the flower descriptions are lovely (people who enjoy gardening will appreciate it). I found Perennials to be a slow-paced story that failed to capture and hold my attention (it actually put me to sleep which is hard to do since I suffer from insomnia). It is basically a story of sibling rivalry (I could go down the street to my sisters to experience this type of behavior) with a predictable ending (it turned out exactly as I predicted when I started reading it).
A moving story filled with life lessons told in a lyrical Southern style. Loved all the lovely garden metaphors used to express a spiritual or inspirational message. They were fitting for the situations, and a perfect way to drop a bit of truth in the moments. Family dynamics, sibling tension, and emotional/psychological struggles made this a story to perfectly illustrate grace and forgiveness, the choice to let go and move on in life, overcoming the past. It had me reaching for the tissues more than once, especially towards the end. The beautiful historical setting of Oxford, Mississippi with its literary fame sounded like a perfect place for a road trip too. Recommend to readers who enjoy contemporary women's fiction with some romance and a spiritual message. (An e-book was provided by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.)
I have read every single book written by this author, and I can attest that she is a very talented writer. Julie Cantrell happens to be one of my favorite writers. Although I would not classify this book as Christian, Perennials is wholesome, with a meaningful message. If I had to some it up in a few words, I would say it is about love and forgiveness. My favorite character is Eva, who is also referred to as Lovey. She is the main protagonist whom I liked and related to. This book may be fiction, but it spoke volumes to me about overcoming and starting over. I was honored to receive an advanced copy of Perennials in exchange for an honest review. I highly recommend it.
Wow! Another thrilling, keep-the-kleenex-close book from the talented Julie Cantrell. This novel tenderly shows us how a wounded sister examines her choices, past and present, and finally learns the timeless lessons of love and courage that empowered her parents' 50 years of marriage. Although I personally don't endorse the spirituality in this book, Lovey's moment of insight as she teaches her elderly parents yoga is a great summary of her dilemma: "It's bound to be one of the most peaceful moments we've ever shared. That's the paradox, isn't it? I can stay here and actually live the life I am trying to sell to the world. Or I can go back...sit in my cubicle, stare at a computer screen, and produce a campaign that encourages OTHER people to live the very lifestyle I'm experiencing right here and now without a single Jansana product in sight." With roots in Mississippi and Arizona, and known either by her official name, Eva, or her nickname, Lovey, she has given her heart to two men and taken it back. Is her duplicity really any different than her sister's life of lies? Or Reed's? This tale delicately yet relentlessly probes her scars and the words that caused them. Memorable characters (Fisher!), great historical tidbits (Eudora Welty, William Faulkner) and down-home reflections make this read a real winner. I love the honest way Lovey comes to face her own failures, not just her sister's- what a beautiful story of forgiveness and reconciliation. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via The Fiction Guild, and was not required to post a review.
I came to sympathize with Eva (nicknamed Lovey), the protagonist of Perennials. She feels betrayed by her older sister Bitsy. No matter which direction Lovey turns, Bitsy is doing everything in her power to hurt and destroy her. I could empathize with Lovey. I could imagine Lovey, at age 45, becoming tired of running. I could believe her seeing her father’s request to come for his and her mother’s 50th anniversary as a way to “come home again.” I was looking forward to reading Perennials, by Julie Cantrell. I had not read any of her books but had heard many good things about her work as an inspiration fiction writer. I think of the inspirational fiction genre as a publishing arm of the Christian community. You can imagine my surprise when I found the protagonist follows the teachings of her Buddhist mentor. I was even more surprised at allusions to Mary, Christ’s mother, speaking to and guiding other characters in the book. I love to learn from the novels I read. Julie Cantrell vividly weaves an abundance of flowers and trees into the story’s setting, along with information about the cities portrayed in the book. Perennials teaches about the color and greenery God has planted in His world. Perennials is an interesting story. It speaks to our heartfelt need for home and family, even under circumstances that are desperately difficult. The book resonated in my life; it inspires. I received this book from Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
Well this review is a struggle. The story is a good one. I enjoyed reading about Lovey "Eva" and her family and their struggle to get along in this crazy world. She finally comes home for her parents 50th anniversary then finds out her mother is sick. She tries to make peace with her sister who hates her. She works thru some old baggage and finally get alot of it worked thru. I struggled with the emphasis on yoga which is an eastern cult and how she tried to mesh this with Christianity. I have no desire to get involved with yoga and if I'd known it played such a big part of this book I probably would not have read it.
Lovey fled her beloved Oxford, Mississippi home, leaving her literature and garden filled childhood in her past, along with the fire her sister blamed on her that injured their friend Finn, and the love of his brother Fisher. Returning decades later to celebrate her parents' 50th anniversary, she faces her inexplicably hostile sister and her long lost love, whose relationship status is currently "it's complicated." Lovey navigates her emotions through family crises, complex relationships, and her own conflicting desires. Julie Cantrell can draw out emotions, from tears to joy. I found myself gasping out loud at the reveal of the anniversary garden. The imagery blooms forth like a southern garden in summer. If you've lived in the South, you know that you get lovely flowers all year round, but summer brings the biggest and boldest, and this novel with its garden theme made my heart beat faster at the beautiful imagery. Everything hit me as the reader as hard as it hit the main character Lovey, the pain of sibling rivalry in the truest sense of the word, the confusion of not understanding actions of people she loves, and the feels of breakthroughs when, after all these years, she finally feels that she's been heard. If you love Patti Callahan Henry, you will love Julie Cantrell. If you're Christian, Cantrell's religious undertones will enhance the story. I'm not, so it was a bit distracting for me, but the story is SO good.
Published by: Thomas Nelson Written by: Julie Cantrell After reading about this book, I was anxious to have the chance to read and review it. Perennials tells the story of a woman who is hurting because of her past. This woman must come to peace with her family and the hurts that she received when she was young. Who This Book is For: Anyone who is looking for an interesting story with heart. What I liked: I really felt like I got to know every character in the book and they became like friends to me. The story is touching and I liked reading of the different relationships. The story is interesting and I was into the book the whole way through. There is a hopeful message in this book. This is a small thing, but I like the texture of this book and the feel of it in my hands. What I didn’t like: There is a bit of what I would call "new age" content in this book. Some of it didn't sit well with me. My conclusion: Overall, I liked this book. I give Perennials 4 out of 5 stars. I received this book free to review from BookLook. The opinions expressed in this review are my true thoughts and feeling regarding this book. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Wow, older sisters can be witches and that was certainly true of Bitsy. Wow!! Heartless and cutthroat to her younger sister, she has more barbs than a blackberry bush. Ha! This was a tale of family. The ups, downs, love, traditions, heartbreak and just plain old Southern charm. I resonated with these characters pretty early in the book and sped my way through this highly dysfunctional family's troubles. I do have to admit, I did have to skip a few pages of Lovey's "self talks". I did use several tissues at the end of this book. A great family saga that I truly enjoyed! Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Perennials is a wonderfully written book with personal problems which are resolved. Cantrell brings the characters to life so that the reader feels the pain and angst. Bitsy and Lovey loved each other until they were ages 11 and 8, respectfully. Lovey still loved her sister, but didn't understand her hatred. Fast forward to when Lovey is 45, a successful advertising executive in Arizona. Her father (Chief) calls her to come home to Mississippi to help prepare for her parents 50th anniversary celebration. The subsequent conflict resolution makes Perennials a very good book. While this book is classified as Christian fiction, it gives too much emphasis on yoga and a spiritual guide than it does to God helping Lovey and her family achieve understanding. For this reason I gave the book 4 stars.
I always appreciate a novel that deals with difficult and hard topics. One such topic that often fits both of those descriptions? Family. And that’s exactly what Cantrell tackled with her latest release. While there were many pieces of this novel I enjoyed (her writing, her story building, her ode to classic authors and flowers), I have to confess, this wasn’t a favorite of mine. Bitsy was so terrible y’all (I promise that’s not a spoiler, it’s in the description). I know that was the point, but I haven’t not liked a character like that in a while. As the book went on, there were some reckonings and healings, but it was a hard come around for me. Even though I was incredibly frustrated with Bitsy’s narrative (and how everyone, but Lovey responded), I was reminded that sadly, this type of situation is reality for many families. I love Cantrell’s writing though and look forward to what’s next! If you love novels set in the south, this one might be worth checking out. (Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)
I received a copy of this book from The Fiction Guild. I was not required to give a favorable review. This was a wonderful story about family, life, death and what each of has to go through just to live. Bitsy is the older sister but feels her parents are giving her sister to much of the time and attention. Lovey (Eva) is the younger sister that doesn't feel she belongs, it start with a fire in the tool shed, that ends up hurting two of their friends, to little things as they grow up. Now Lovey has made a life in AZ and very rarely goes back to Mississippi to visit. But now her parents are going to be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and she need to go home. So many things are going to chance and happen while she is there that makes her decide to come home for good. I loved this story because you need a few tissues, and understand the love the family brings.
Perennials is southern storytelling at its very best! Cantrell’s lyrical prose and exquisite descriptions evoke thought and emotion as the intricacies of family relations are explored. Lovey’s story is one of heartache and healing, and I savored the beauty and wisdom found in her journey. Poignant and perceptive, Perennials is not to be missed! I received a complimentary copy of this book. No review was required, and all thoughts expressed are my own.
Eva finally fleeing from being under her sister Bitsy to Arizona. Now awaiting a big contract, a success in her career at 45,wonders about her choices. Her dad summons her to come home for their anniversary, for three weeks., to build a memory garden. They never visited her in Arizona so she didn’t know what to expect. Is what she had thought all though years as true today. Her sister married and has two children, would she even be welcome. A love of doing the garden, becomes so much more, and readers will delight in them, and this story. Given ARC. by ?Thomas Nelson for my voluntary review and my honest opinion.
Eva is running from the past. She has created a new life for herself as an ad executive in Arizona. She is about to sign a huge account and then she is going to retire to the mountains. But, her parents have called her home for their anniversary celebration. She is not ready to face her past or her family, especially her sister. I adore this book!! The story, the location, the family traditions, it all hits home! There were spots I had to put the book down and just sigh. I live an hour outside of Oxford and I graduated from Ole Miss so of course, this book became special the first time Oxford is mentioned. Even though I gave this book a 5 star rating, it is not without problems. Eva, to me, came off as a little whiney and she doesn't stand up for herself when she should. There were places I wanted to GIBBS SLAP her. She is an ad executive and she didn't get there by being mousey. So when her sister treats her like crap and she takes it, that grates on my nerves. Outside of that one minor flaw, this is a just an all around great tale about family and life's ups and downs. This story is full of southern charm. Julie Cantrell nailed Oxford, the south and it's traditions. She is a masterful storyteller and creates a true world which everyone should experience. "There's no point in telling her the truth-that my hometown is a literary mecca filled with poet laureates and Pulitzer winners, a university community more diverse and well-read than any she's probably visited, much less called home" (quote about Oxford,MS.)
Julie Cantrell has told another outstanding story in her book, Perennials. I must admit I could not wait to read this one and I devoured it in no time. The heart wrenching story of a family torn apart over the years and forced to face hard painful trials. I was rooting for Eva from the beginning and though there were times I wanted her to react differently, her strength in her quiet responses was what made her character so powerful. The love in the Sutherland family was incomparable. The kind of people you wish lived next door because they would provide a cup of iced tea and wisdom in every interaction. Perennials is totally worth every single second spent reading it. Definitely a five out of five stars.
Sisters, and the events and anguish that separate them are the essence of this heartrending story. A comment regarded as preference for one daughter over the other caused bitterness that persisted for a lifetime. Our perceptions of an imagined act of favoritism can eat away at the hearts of our very being. Lovey and Bitsy carried that misguided perception for years. The relationships that paralleled the lives of these sisters were troublesome and unpleasant. Their parents' 50th anniversary party brings the two together after a lengthy separation. Their family yearned that healing would begin if the sisters could see beyond the past and find forgiveness for one another. This author has a gift of developing strong and believable characters that create a clear picture of how each character functions. Most characters throughout this book are charming and engaging. I had a difficult time liking Lovey and Bitsy, and that influenced my reactions to this book. Names and nicknames affected me as trite and somewhat irritating. This may be a geographical difference and doesn't affect my rating of this book. The perennial gardens and literary connections add to the execution of this memorable story. That coupled with the relationship between the Sutherlands reveals that true love can survive the test of good and bad times. Adversity comes to all in different ways, and the reactions and actions that one takes has a profound effect on circumstances beyond our control. Detailed descriptions are breathtaking, and create an artistic portrait of the grandeur that defines Perennials! I highly recommend this very poignant work of art! Disclaimer: I purchased a copy of this book for my own pleasure. All expressed opinions are my own.
What a beautiful book! I loved everything about it. I was hooked from the beginning. The characters were well developed to the point where I honestly felt as if I knew them. They felt as if they were family and I loved then all. I love gardening and there is lots of flower info. The author describes the flowers, town, gardens, and houses so well, you will see it all in your mind. This isn't just a book. It's also filled with lots of inspirational sayings and quotes. This is going to be a book that I won't soon forget! Highly recommend Perennials and keep a tissue handy! * I was provided an ARC to read from the publisher and NetGalley. It was my decision to read and review this book.
It was very difficult for me to forget this book once I’d finished it. Julie Cantrell is a prolific writer, and she does it in such a way that it makes you think…and reflect…and compare your personal life to those of the characters and wonder if you too need to improve. Lovey represents many of us – in that we’ve been hurt in our past and have no idea how to move on. To hold onto those hurts and allow them to shape our words, thoughts and actions seems childish, but the pain is very real. Although she had become a successful business woman, she had never really managed to move on – choosing instead to hide from the sources of her pain. But, her past was ever present. Her sister Bitsy was extremely difficult to like. She was mean and spiteful. Lovey took the blame many times from the hands of her only sister. Even worse, their parents often seemed to take Bitsy’s side and fully expected Lovey to “suck it up,” with no explanations. They made me angry many times because it seemed that they would work a little harder at doing their part. I appreciated the heart-to-heart talk she had with her father near the end. Even in the resolution – after Lovey found her own happiness – I could not help but wonder what would have happened if the resolution had been discovered a little sooner. I think the lessons Julie Cantrell intended for us to learn were very well addressed. First of all, family should always come first. Life is short, even when your parents have lived long, full lives. Secondly, don’t hide from your problems. Address and face them head-on. Thirdly, it’s never too late, not even for love. This was a solid effort from Julie Cantrell. It did not captivate me as much as her past works, but the message was well thought out and received.
Perennials is a story of family loss, lies, dedication , transformation, blame, dedication, reunification and most and for all forgiveness. Bitsy was Missy good to shoes – everything was given to her – her way for Eva – lovely – things became harder for her and she was blamed for something horrendous that she did not do but she did not correct them though – she took on the blame and let the guilty party get away with it – meanwhile she moves away and excels and isn't as executive – very far from Mississippi where she was from and has estranged herself from her family. Now her father wants her back home for their 50th anniversary. She goes and so does her sister Bitsy and the drama between her and her spoiled sister starts will they ever repair their closeness ? Will they ever find out the truth about the shed ? Will there be redemption? I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions in this review are all my own.
I have read every book Julie Cantrell has written and dearly loved them all. This one was a good story but it left me wanting. It is sprinkled with spiritual elements and lessons (as all her previous books have included) but the author seemed determined to make every religion part of the story… a bit from the Catholic faith, labyrinth walks, a little fundamental Christianity and a little bit Buddhist…It would seem that every faith was touched on somewhat. Maybe so everyone would find some spiritual aspect they could relate too? The characters, which are well written, complex and enveloped in an excellent story about the abiding bonds of family were wonderful but the spiritual element just went all over the place for me. I found this problematic. Kind of like spiritual gumbo…lots of flavors but this time it just didn’t do it for me. I will read more from this author as I do like her writing and her ability to weave a story.
"Family first" is the mantra of loving parents for their two young daughters. It took both girls a long time to understand and appreciate that. If you love flowers, plants and gardening you will delight in this story of family, friends,forgiveness and reconciliation. There are many wise sayings told by Mother and Dad. "Happy is a choice.","We are here to love and be loved ",and "Sometimes the best thing is to just let go." are some we should heed. If you give yourself the pleasure of reading this novel, you will find many more beautiful quotes.
My Review of "Perennials" by Julie Cantrell Kudos to Julie Cantrell, author of "Perennials" for such an emotional and heartwarming novel. The symbolism in this book, leads to many layers of life. The genres of this novel are Fiction and Women's Fiction. The timeline of this story as it relates to the characters is the present and as the two sisters in the story were growing up. The story take place mostly in Oxford,Mississippi, where the author shows her characters love for literature, history and flowers. It also takes place in Arizona. The blurb from the books says"When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents' 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother's perennial garden." The father wants to give his wife a "memory garden" as a special present. The mother has a love for all perennials and living things. The author describes her characters as complicated and complex. She often uses the symbolic example of a garden, seed, roots foundation, care, love and growth to compare to the characters. The lesson of Judas is brought up and is used to explore the characters flaws, betrayals, secrets, needs, strengths and weaknesses. The author also discusses the concept of "Family First " in this story. Also discussed is sibling rivalry. Secrets and lies also are in this story. Lovey has left Mississippi at an early age headed to Arizona, where she is a financial success in advertising, and also teaches Yoga. She is called home to help celebrate her loving parents 50th Wedding Anniversary. Told it is an emergency, Lovely leaves immediately and sees her estranged sister Bitsy. Bitsy has two children that Lovely has longed to have a relationship with, but Bitsy has kept them away from her. What has made Bitsy so bitter and angry? What had made Lovely leave Mississippi, and go to Arizona.? What is so important that her parents want Lovely home? I appreciate the historical research that Julie Cantrell has done in the literature, flowers, and gardens. I love that the author discusses sibling rivalry, betrayal and loyalty, lies and the truth. self-worth, and growth, and positive people and positive things in our lives. The author also talks about the importance of family, friends, support, encouragement, growth, love and hope. Be warned: there are a few Kleenex moments. I would highly recommend this book to readers who appreciate a loving and memorable story. I received this Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review. Amazon