cover image Unearthed: How an Abandoned Garden Taught Me to Accept and Love My Parents

Unearthed: How an Abandoned Garden Taught Me to Accept and Love My Parents

Alexandra Risen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-544-63336-0

Blogger and gardener Risen’s debut memoir is based on a “collection of reminiscences” from a 10-year period. After the death of her father, an emotionally distant man from the Ukraine, the author and her husband purchase a ranch-style house and an acre of land surprisingly situated in downtown Toronto. The garden is neglected, but Risen, steeped in “love of nature and living things,” sees the possibilities. Having spent her childhood playing in a ravine near her home in Alberta, she’s eager to restore the abandoned property, once part of a larger estate. The land is rife with unexpected delights: a huge, decaying pagoda, underground aquifers, a pond, koi, deer, and all manner of vegetation. She soon begins making maple syrup, cattail fried rice, and bleeding heart valentines (recipes, instructions, and foraging guidelines included). As the restoration painstakingly progresses, Risen simultaneously delves into her past, exploring why her immigrant parents never revealed details of their family history. She also shares her love of the land with her ailing mother and with her husband and young son (who grows from toddler to techie teen in the course of the decade’s work). As she restores the property and heals her long-troubled soul, Risen paints a vivid and exquisite portrait of nature and its profound significance. (July)