cover image Into the Garden with Charles: A Memoir

Into the Garden with Charles: A Memoir

Clyde Phillip Wachsberger. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-17571-9

Wachsberger’s refreshing and heartfelt memoir invites the reader into a house, a garden, and two lives filled with affection and warmth. Sagging floorboards and rotting linoleum greet Wachsberger (Stories and Poems for Gardeners) when, in 1983, he buys a 300-year-old house on Long Island. What will become a splendid garden is a “whole empty field around a clump of peonies.” The author, having “turned fifty without noticing how I had gotten there,” began “to grow around my loneliness the way a tree limb can grow through a chain-link fence, incorporating the sharp metal into its fiber without showing any outward signs of distress.” And then he falls in love with Charles. For Charles and Clyde, there are the impingements of aging (“It had been many years since anyone had seen me naked”) and of illness. When Clyde met Charles, he found the “best friend who was also an affectionate lover, a friend who shared my deepest yearning to be someone special for someone special” he had been looking for. Together they form a union, produce a book (Of Leaf and Flower ), and nurture a noteworthy garden. With a keen ear and eye for the anecdotal, Wachsberger sketches beautifully lucid picture in words, and his illustrative paintings add both beauty and emotional content to this candidly romantic memoir. (Jan.)