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  • Writer's pictureKay Spencer

Never Truly Gone - words from the north.

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

The gracious ladies of the Portland book club.

This post is about book reviews in Maine, I promise, but as often happens I've been sidetracked by the research of a single word (transcendent) and must first talk about how we are so similar to trees.

Both humans and trees are primarily composed of just six elements - five of which we share: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus.

I've always thought of us humans being much the same as all organic matter that is returned to the earth: the creatures of the dirt make us ready for other life. At times of loss people talk about how we are never truly gone, and while they may mean something entirely different, I can look up at the trees and completely agree. Now I read that - excepting the absence or presence of calcium or sulfur - we are very much the same scientifically. Just as our cells multiply and divide, trees grow specialized tissue referred to as meristems. This tissue is found at the tips of the leaves and shoots that reach for the sun. The trees feed on everything that has lived and died: dinosaurs, birds, mammals. On Bartlett Island off the coast of Maine, the trees have claimed three generations of my own ancestors who were laid to rest on the land they settled 350 years ago. We are a part of everything.

So what does this have to do with a bookclub in Portland? Besides geography, a shared understanding, perhaps, of the evolution of grief, the meaning of loss, by the experiences of relatable fictional people who are surrounded by the possibility of life, and whom, eventually, accept the invitation.

With that, princesses of Maine, queens of New England: thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking a chance on Katy, Martin, and Daniel.


Lynn W: I found Searching for George’s Garden to be a compelling story, one that stirred many sweet memories in me of my own young years in the South. The three main characters are fascinating people individually and even more so in their interactions. I didn’t want the story to end, but of course it did…however, not before completely surprising me and leaving me wishing for more.

Burma W: A page turner about healing and self-discovery. Beautiful prose with a great mystery you cannot wait to solve.

Cathleen W: This book was a beautiful read! As this is a story of searching for one’s life, the details and descriptions of landscape and seascape and sky brought the spiritual aspect of human evolution to me. The relationships [it built] will forever stay in my heart. This story of love and loss guides us all to examine our own connection to how we can use adversity and loss in our own lives to rebuild and transform. I loved that the creation of the canvas attic was the building of Katy’s world from the darkness she had experienced. If a bit wandering in the beginning, I would advise the reader to stay with it as the author brings it all together into a beautiful landscape of relationship and healing.

Christine W: I am so glad I read this book. The author showed great skill in helping us get to know the characters, I’m finding they are staying with me more than I expected them to. Just like in real life, they are hard to understand at first. As we get to know more about them through brief glimpses into their past, we understand them and begin to care about them. This is much like how we get to know people in real life. I loved the details about the Western Interior Sea and the shell deposits. The lyrical language used to describe the gardens and other natural elements - such as sky and sea - drew vivid pictures.

Susanne: A wonderful book about life, loss, and rejuvenation. All three characters are thoughtfully drawn, and the thread of mystery that brings them together makes it a page-turner. Beautifully set in the south amidst a neglected garden brought back to life.

Kristi A: A beautiful story with vivid prose about the emotional roller coaster of rebuilding a life after loss. The succulent imagery will not only bond the reader to the garden flourishing within the pages of the novel, but will stir appreciation for the earthy havens of your own memories and friendships.

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