cover image French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

Richard Goodman. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $16.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-945575-66-5

Ostensibly about a garden kept by Goodman during a year spent in a tiny French village near Avignon, French Dirt is really an account of his response to living as an outsider in a tightly knit community. To make contact with the villagers and better understand their lot, Goodman first worked in a vineyard in exchange for firewood. The coming of spring and an epiphany in a local apricot orchard led him to borrow land, tools and expert but conflicting advice from resident gardeners for a vegetable garden of his own. The author's metaphor for gardening is that of love; he shares his initial out-of-control buying spree in the garden supply store, his devoted struggle to keep his plants watered without a hose or faucet and his raptures when the garden starts to produce. Unfortunately, this story of his short-lived affair with the garden (he left France at the end of August) is marred by self-indulgent writing and condescension toward the very villagers from whom he craved acceptance. (Sept.)