In the midst of this winter, I read Carol Wall’s memoir, Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart.
The “guide” tells the story of a friendship that blooms into a cultural
and spiritual exchange about the seasons of our human condition and the
patience and understanding needed to harvest the beauty and bounty from
this earth and this life.
Carol Wall, a white woman living in a lily-white neighborhood in Middle America, was at a crossroads in her life. Her children were grown; she had successfully overcome illness; her beloved parents were getting older. One day she notices a dark-skinned African man tending her neighbor's yard. His name is Giles Owita. He bags groceries at the supermarket. He comes from Kenya. And he's very good at gardening.
Before long Giles is transforming not only Carol's yard, but her life. Though they are seemingly quite different, a caring bond grows between them. But they both hold long-buried secrets that, when revealed, will cement their friendship forever.
“In this profoundly moving memoir, Owita teaches Wall how to find grace amid heartbreak and to accept that beauty exists because it is fleeting—as in her garden, as in life.” —People, 4 stars “A perfect spring awakening.” —Good Housekeeping "No green thumb is required to enjoy the warmhearted pleasures of Carol Wall's moving memoir, Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening.... magnetically compelling ... Grace and gardening go hand-in-glove in this fine book about what really matters in life: friendship, kindness and watching a garden grow." —USA Today
"A pleasure to read. Wall’s bittersweet story of human kindness has universal appeal." —Kirkus Reviews
"I couldn’t put this book down. I found myself liking the principal characters from the opening pages, and my affection for them never wavered. If you enjoy inspirational memoirs or gardening books (or both), this moving account of a life-changing friendship is for you." —Bookpage
"A must-read memoir. On the surface, Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall, is a gentle memoir about a friendship between a white woman in Roanoke, Virginia and her gardener from Kenya. But that description fails to capture the book's depth, its sometimes-raw emotions, nor its many surprising twists.... Both shocking and profoundly moving. This book is not just about gardening." —AARP blog “In this heartbreaking yet heartwarming paean to the joys of friendship and gardening, Wall crafts an elegiac tribute to an extraordinary man.” —Booklist
"[T]his memoir chronicl[es] the many lasting rewards garnered from an unexpected friendship..." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This memoir touches upon everything that is important in life. Not only is it beautifully written—I am also in awe of Carol Wall’s raw honesty and incredible courage.”—Kathleen Grissom, New York Times–bestselling author of The Kitchen House
“Carol Wall’s suspenseful tale of human frailty and courage is a marvel. In her garden, an unexpected bond slowly forms as two people from distant worlds help each other confront long-buried secrets and fears. Deeply personal, poetic, and brimming with humanity, this is a book of lasting grace.” —Steve Lopez, New York Times–bestselling author of The Soloist
“Carol Wall’s disarming memoir Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening is a poignant tale of an unlikely teacher and a doubting student, who, by bringing a neglected patch of ground back to life, reveal the secrets of reclaiming, restoring, and freeing a wounded soul. It is a generous story filled with grace enough to bring healing to the reader as well. An engaging personal and spiritual journey into life’s essential questions.” —Jonathan Odell, author of The Healing