I first discovered Denise Hildreth Jones several years ago when I purchased a three-in-one collection of fiction books on a sale rack at a Christian book store. The three books were by three new (ish) authors, and I absolutely loved every one of them. Since then I've read several other novels by Denise and have yet to be disappointed.
The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones is absolutely fantastic! I literally did not put the book down for the two days it took me to read it. Mackenzie and Gray London have a great life. With Gray serving as the governor of Tennessee, Mackenzie devotes her time to their five-year-old daughter and charity work. They are surrounded by wonderful family and friends - Mackenzie's mother, trusted friends, and a wise gardener. When tragedy strikes, they all must pull together in order to survive.
This is one of the most powerful and moving stories I have ever read. The writing style is unique - with the story told alternately by Mackenzie and Jeremiah (the gardener). Such distinct styles but equally well-done. Denise has an incredible ability to make readers feel every emotion of every character. (Grab a box of tissue!) The ups and downs are dramatic . . . but she writes with hope and passion. I think that's what moved me the most - the way the story pointed to hope in Christ more than just a quick happy ending.
I give The First Gardener 5 stars and a permanent place on my bookshelf. You have to read this book!
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House as part of the Summer Reading Program.
Gray London, governor of Tennessee and first lady MacKenzie have a 5 yr old daughter, Maddie, who was born after many years of hoping. Maddie adds life to their home and their hearts.
Jeremiah has been tending the gardens of the govenor's house for 25 years, and 3 years of that for the London family. Jeremiah has a way of growing things and it can be said that a piece of heaven can truly be found in his backyard.
When tragedy strikes the world stops spinning. For this family through life's turmoil and suffering, God brings understanding through the eyes and heart of an old gardener named Jeremiah.
When MacKenzie's mother Eugenia comes to stay at the Governors home she and Jeremiah have to work hard to overcome their differences.
A southern novel of love, loss and understanding that will touch of the heart of the reader. At times quite sad, but at others quite funny, especially with Eugenia and her friends. Excellent character development and although at times the dialect was hard to follow, it is truly a keeper novel to be enjoyed again. The author was able to portray the characters expression of grief in different ways. A true journey of the heart novel that I highly recommend.
I'm not sure I can communicate effectively just how much I appreciate this book, but here goes.
Let me preface this by sharing that Denise Hildreth Jones is one of my all time favorite authors. I have read every book she has written. Some more than once (I can't get enough Savannah...I laugh out loud - even in the second and third readings....but I digress) and "The First Gardener" truly exceeded my expectations. It's true, I was prepared to like it, but really, I *loved* it.
We begin with the enviable and lovely life of the first family of the great state of Tennessee. They are beautiful inside and out, successful, in love, kind to others...the happy list goes on and on. They long for many children but have only one, their 5 year old daughter, Maddie. She is the light of their lives and a delight to all. Jeremiah Williams is the Head Gardener of the governor's mansion and has been tending the first families' gardens for 25 years. He has a special place in his heart for this entire family. When tragedy strikes and all of their lives are forever changed, he is an integral part of their healing.
The entire story is handled in ways that I found realistic without being hopeless; funny, yet never irreverent; and most importantly, it communicated biblical truths without being even a little trite - especially in the face of such major heartbreak. At the risk of sounding a little dramatic, The First Gardener actually changed my life.
What a book! It's kind of sad and happy at the same time. Very up-close portrait of grief, pain, miscarriage, depression, etc., but also God's grace, the enduring love and support of a spouse, family and friends.
For over twenty-five years Jeremiah Williams has tended the award-winning gardens that grace the Tennessee governor's mansion. He's seen First families come and go, but this one has captured his heart in a special way. First lady Mackenzie London and her husband, Governor Gray London, have struggled for a decade to have a child. Though in the midst of starting a re-election campaign and enduring new political struggles, nothing could be sweeter than their current state of life--because they are sending their five year-old daughter, Maddie, off to kindergarten. But tragedy soon rips their world apart, sending the state of Tennessee into mourning, and Mackenzie into a grief and blackness so deep that it nearly chokes the life from her. Jeremiah realizes God hasn't just called him to tend the gardens of the governor's mansion, but the decaying garden within Mackenzie's heart. As he and her friends fight for her, Jeremiah works diligently to help her understand what has taken him years to discover.
The Fist Gardener is a heart-wrenching southern tale of love, grief, and hope. Denise Hildreth Jones crafts an excellent story that, in my opinion, earns her a place alongside renowned authors such as Liz Curtis Higgs and Francine Rivers, as she masters almost every area of creating a story that moves the reader's heart and stirs the emotions, while displaying brilliant and clever literary technique.
She blends complex emotions and messages into a thought-provoking story while seamlessly mixing in comedy and southern flare. Her brilliance in capturing Jeremiah's voice brings him to life and endears him to the reader. In fact, she brings each character to life in a such a way that they are no longer just characters, but friends that you find yourself rooting for as they struggle.
For those who have walked through the same grief as Mackenzie, you will find this story exposing pieces of your heart and making them vulnerable. But you will also find healing.
This book is especially great for book clubs and church reading groups as they can enjoy digging through the deeper literary devices of the story and discussing them--I personally loved the entire gardening symbol and found the spiritual impact so touching that I just bawled. I'm still bawling!
This book is not for those who seek a light-hearted, entertaining read. This novel will challenge you to summon the most vulnerable areas of your heart--yet it's so worth it. In a five out five star rating I give The First Gardner a six!
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.