Today on our second day of driving to Arizona I read the book The Greenhouse by Audur Olafsdottir. It was charming and drew me in completely.
The story starts in Iceland and the author’s skillful and vibrant descriptions of the scenery and culture reminded me of the stunning photographs my friend Rebekah took when she visited Iceland a year ago. The main character is an Icelandic young man named Lobbi. He is grieving the death of his mother, who was an avid gardener and grew roses in her greenhouse.
Lobbi leaves his nearly eighty-year old father and autistic twin brother to go to another European country–we are never told which one– to resurrect a famous rose garden at a monastery. The descriptions of how he transforms the garden reminded me of the children’s novel The Secret Garden, a book I read to all my elementary school classes and to my own children. In the novel a little orphan girl named Mary transforms a garden with the help of her friend Dickon and a boy in a wheelchair named Colin. Just as the children are healed and given hope and happiness because of their time in the garden, so too restoring the monastery garden has a positive effect on Lobbi.
Lobbi’s life is also changed for the better because he is asked to look after his daughter Flora Sol while her mother works on her thesis. Flora is the result of a one night stand and Lobbi has had little involvement in her life until she arrives on his doorstep at the monastery. He grows into a much better, happier person as he learns to love his daughter and becomes something of an expert at caring for her. It reminded me of the movie Jack and Sarah which I saw many years ago. Jack is mourning the death of his wife and has fallen into a spiral of drinking and depression. Having to care for his little baby daughter Sarah is his redemption and changes his life for the better in many ways.
Interesting things about the book……….
The Greenhouse has won all kinds of literary awards.
Lobbi and his Dad are always trying to cook and bake the things Lobbi’s mother did before she died, so there are some good descriptions of food, recipes and cooking.
Olafsdottir doesn’t use quotation marks, but rather hyphens when people are speaking, and she doesn’t say who is speaking, but somehow you always know.
There is a priest in the book who loves movies and when people come to him for advice he recommends a couple of films that might help them.
The book doesn’t have a perfect fairy tale ending.