Gray and Mack are shattered when they lose their only child in a horrific accident. The grief, despair, and anger which follows causes a sharp juxtaposition between their personal life and their public life as the first family of Tennessee. As Mack sinks deeper into depression, Gray throws himself into his work as governor, and their sixteen year marriage slowly begins to crumble. Unable to fight for themselves, the couple finds unlikely allies in the governor's mansion gardener, a young family whose father is in prison for murder, Mack's overbearing mother and her mother's closest friends.
The author does a great job handling the trauma and anguish that comes with losing a child. The emotions portrayed are sincere. The deteriorating relationships are handled with finesse.
My one criticism is that the plot allows a deus ec machina ending. Yes, prayer in the only true power we wield as Christians. But a sudden switch from never-leaving-the-bed-absolute-despair to dressed-hosting-people-in-your-home-up-and-about makes the story veer suddenly in an unpredictable fashion. It comes across like the author was running out of words for the book and needed to wrap the story up quickly. The ending isn't implausible, or even improbable in real life; it just felt to me that - in the context of the story - after slipping into darkness so quickly, the turnaround climb would be far subtler and not quite as sudden. It's a small criticism, and my only one.
Otherwise, this is a well written enjoyable story. Finished it in about 4 hours.
I've been a huge fan of Denise Hildreth Jones' books since she released "Savannah From Savannah". For me, she is the queen of all things Southern. With her newest novel, she's not only added another jewel to that crown...she's written the novel, in my humble opinion, she was born to write.
Jeremiah Williams has been caring for the lawns and garden at the governor's mansion for decades, but he always takes great care to point the way to "The First Gardener" in all he does.
Governor Gray London currently resides in the Tennessee governor's mansion, along with his wife Mackenzie and his daughter Madison. Jeremiah has taken as shine to this precious family, and when they are rocked to their very core by unthinkable tragedy, he's right there with them, holding them up and caring for his precious Mackenzie the only way he knows how.
This story is packed with emotion. The characters literally leap off the pages and into your heart. Maddie is adorable and precocious and filled with energy and life. Her best friend Oliver is a hoot as he attempts to impress the governor's family upon every visit with his high intelligence.
But it's Eugenia's pack of gal pals that take the character cake! Mackenzie's momma is a character unto herself...then there is prim-n-proper Sandra, ruffled up to her wrinkled neck and holding onto Southern manners till they squeal.
Berlyn needs some of Sandra's ruffles to keep her 'girls' covered up...with her loud and proud prints, you can just see her standing before you in all of her flowered glory.
And then we have Dimples...that precious cock-eyed saint who says the strangest things and has to look sideways at you to get a clear glimpse. Though oddest of the four, she is most adorable and ends up spouting wisdom that you will most likely take to your grave.
Oh, if only every state in the union had a family such as this living in the mansion and governing the state! Gray is true to his convictions, yet not at all perfect. Mackenzie is the best volunteer you'll find, yet even she is flawed nearly fatally. And I love, love, LOVE that Denise did not end with a 'convenient' ending, although my hurting heart would have loved one.
No, Denise Hildreth Jones stays true to life in this powerful novel, and I adore her for it. Break out the tissues as you crack the cover...it's going to be an emotional ride! My thanks to Denise and her publisher, Tyndale, for my copy. I'm giving "The First Gardener" the Golden Bookmark for Writing Excellence and Memorable Characters, and voting it "Best Contemporary Fiction of 2011".
Don't miss any of Denise's books, but especially make a point to pick up "The First Gardener".
Jeremiah is the gardener for the governor of Tennessee. He loves this family of Gray, Mackenzie and their daughter Maddie. When tragedy strikes, Jeremiah helps the family and particularly Mackenzie through her grief.
I thought this was a well-written book and rather sad in parts. The overall story was excellent and at the end, the reader is told who Jeremiah the gardener really is.
The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones is about the Governor of Tennessee, Gray London, and his wife, Mackenzie. They have a five year old daughter, Maddie and are trying for another child. They had great trouble conceiving their first child and are still having trouble conceiving. The Governor's mansion has a beautiful garden with Jeremiah as the head gardener.
This will be a complicated review. I really liked the characters. I thought that they were well-developed and I felt connected to them for the most part. However, I really didn't like the circumstances of the story. I don't want to give anything away, but I really didn't like the deaths in the story. They seemed very needless. I like my fantasy to be fantasy. The ending didn't even seem to "wrap up" or conclude everything. Every few chapters, there is a chapter written in Jeremiah's voice with the Southern accent written out. I went back and forth on whether or not I liked it. Overall, I have to say that I didn't like the book. The characters were wonderfully written but the story was needlessly sad in my opinion.