“Ominous, fantastic, and wonderfully malevolent…. I felt the spirits of Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Albert Camus’ Meursault, whispering to join the fun.”— Alice Sebold, best-selling and award-winning author of The Lovely Bones
A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn't care. For the first time in his life, he's free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.
Or so he thinks.
Milo settles into a quiet routine—constructing model Greek warships and at last building a relationship with his sister Klara, who's home after a failed marriage and brief career as an English teacher. Then Klara hires a gardener to breathe new life into their overgrown estate. There's something odd about him—something eerily reminiscent of their father's most violent villain. Or is Milo imagining things? He’s not sure. That all changes the day the gardener discovers something startling in the woods. Suddenly Milo is fighting for his life, forced to confront the power of fictional identity as he uncovers the shocking truth about his own dysfunctional family—and the supposed accident that claimed his parents’ lives.
“[A] taut mystery about how the lives we lead are forever changed by the stories we tell and the secrets we keep.” — Ramona Ausubel, award-winning author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One is Here Except All of Us
“[T]his rich neo-gothic novel…captures us with an eerie power exactly like Henry James’ governess and the stressed-out, dreamy extremists of Poe. Milo, the son, the brother, the watcher, the spy, had my sleeve fiercely in his fist the whole way.” — Ron Carlson, award-winning author of Five Skies
“[B]rilliantly probes the authorship of horror in its many arenas: history, war, parenting, nature, love, the imagination.” — Michelle Latiolais, award-winning author of Widow and She.
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About the Author
Michael Barsa grew up in a German-speaking household in New Jersey and spoke no English until he went to school. So began an epic struggle to master the American “R” and a lifelong fascination with language. He’s lived on three continents and spent many summers in southern Germany and southern Vermont.
He’s worked as an award-winning grant writer, an English teacher, and an environmental lawyer. He’s now teaches environmental and natural resources law. His scholarly articles have appeared in several major law reviews, and his writing on environmental policy has appeared in The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times. His short fiction has appeared in Sequoia.
The Garden of Blue Roses is his first novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My Rating: 3.5 Favorite Quotes: Mother drove us to the wedding in the Volvo… She dabbed her eyes and distractedly jerked between lanes at fantastic speed. She must have imagined she was on the Autobahn. Even the notorious Boston drivers seemed terrified. She squealed into the parking garage and nearly ran over a man in a wheelchair. “He’s got to learn to share the road,” she muttered as he flapped his arms like a bird. She’d occasionally dressed this way after her divorce. She called it “retro” but really it was like Emily Dickinson in her Sunday best. It was as if she rejected not just her ex-husband, but the entire era in which he lived. I knew right away what it was. Why are unmarked cars so obvious? The police ought to use beaten -up little Fiats. My Review: This was undoubtedly one of the most frustrating, grueling, and confusing books I have ever read, while at the same time, I was unable or unwilling to walk away in defeat. This book held some type of evil voodoo that kept me in place, although it also made me itch. Yet I could not and would not let it get the best of me! In trying to make sense of the disjointed ramblings I read slowly but will confess to becoming utterly lost several times within the incoherent and disturbing narrative. And it was quite distressing at times as the highly intelligent main character possessed a wild and vivid imagination and was prone to hallucination, delusions, paranoia, and lost time. Some of the issues I struggled with the most were: figuring out which events were real and which were merely delusional; and which one of this bizarre clan was the most impaired. No spoilers - but it turns out, they all were more than a bit off the charts with a vile and severely warped family dynamic. The plot was elaborate and the writing was gripping, intriguing, maddening, and frequently hard to follow. While on one hand, I’d like to give him a good pinch or ten, I also have to give this confounding and fiendishly twisted wordsmith his props as I couldn’t leave it alone, his clever tale continued to beckon until I saw those two most highly desired words of the day – The End.