cover image The Garden of the World

The Garden of the World

Lawrence Coates. Univ. of Nevada, $22 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-0-87417-870-8

Set in California's lush Santa Clara Valley shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Coates's third novel (after The Master of Monterey) focuses on the tenuous relationship between a son and his ruthlessly ambitious father, vintner Paul Tourneau. When Gill is eight, his mother%E2%80%94"who had long been withdrawing into a world shaped by illness"%E2%80%94passes away, just as phylloxera is spreading across the land, destroying vineyards. Shortly thereafter, Paul remarries and has another son, whom he "took into his arms at the end of every day," thereby alienating Gill. "Sullen and joyless," Gill signs up to fight when WWI breaks out, leaving his father and stepfamily to toil on their own throughout Prohibition. In describing the farmland and vineyards in California during the early decades of the 1900s, the author recalls the state's rich agricultural past, long before housing developments, business parks, and Silicon Valley. He grounds the story in a time and place, but Coates's empathetic characters and the struggles they endure transcend those particulars. Both Gill and Paul have deep emotional scars, and Coates does an admirable job of exploring the bonds between misguided father and prodigal son, all against the backdrop of a fallen American Eden. (Feb.)