November 26, 2019

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall
Nonfiction - Memoir
2014 Amy Einhorn Books
Finished on November 20, 2019
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

A true story of a unique friendship between two people who had nothing - and ultimately everything - in common.

Carol Wall, a middle-aged woman living in a small Virginia town, was at a crossroads in her life. Her children were grown and had left her nest empty; she had successfully overcome the illness that had upended her idyllic existence and forced her to question her own assumptions about what truly gives life  meaning; her beloved parents were getting older, and their care was her burden to carry, alone. Her yard was showing obvious signs of neglect, yet the last thing in the world she thought she would start doing is take up something as frivolous as gardening. Carol and flowers had a history--and it wasn't a happy one.

One day, while she was driving by her neighbor's house, Carol couldn't help noticing the neighbor's yard. Flowers were blooming everywhere. The lawn was a luscious dark green. The trees were glorious, and their shade inviting. In comparison, Carol's yard was... well, just a yard, perhaps the ugliest one on the block.

Yet even more compelling than the beautiful plants was the magnetic man orchestrating this magic. As if drawn by an inexplicable force, Carol found herself calling to gather more information about the stranger. She learned that his name was Giles Owita. He was from Kenya. He bagged groceries at the supermarket in town. He was very good at gardening.

Soon Giles was showing up at Carol's doorstep and transforming now only her yard, but her life. Though they seemed as different as could be, a caring bond began to grown between them. And as it turned out, they both had closely held secrets that, when revealed, would cement their connection forever. 

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening is an account of an unexpected friendship that sustained Carol through crises and milestones. It is the memoir of a woman who at midlife found there was so much more to learn about herself and others. And perhaps more important, it is also an ode to Giles Owita himself, an intelligent and complex man whose wisdom and grace were truly remarkable. 

As I began reading Carol Wall's memoir, I had that heady feeling of joy, knowing from the opening pages that this was going to be a wonderful book. I felt an immediate connection to the author and looked forward to learning more about her life, as well as that of Giles Owita and his ability to transform a sad garden into a place of beauty and joy. However, somewhere around the third chapter I grew more than weary of Carol's insecurities and whining. While not exactly a drama queen, her reaction to the declining health of her parents, and that of her own cancer battles, seemed over the top and irrationally hysterical. I was tempted to abandon the book, but stuck with it since a few of my friends gave it a high rating and it was a quick read. Overall, it was a disappointing read.


  1. I loved this book when I read it so I'm sorry to see it didn't work for you.

    1. Kathy, I know of several readers who loved this book and I am so disappointed that I don't share that feeling. I was saddened to learn that the author passed away shortly after completely the book.

  2. Oh no, another memoir that disappointed. And, it sounds like it had so much going for it!

    1. Iliana, it really had very little to do with gardening. However, I am halfway through another memoir that I started last night (Devotion by Dani Shapiro) and I can't put it down!


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