Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The Wonder Garden
Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Kathleen, I had the immense pleasure of reading Lauren Acampora's The Wonder Garden. When I asked Kathleen if it was a novel or short stories she said "both." I might say "neither." It doesn't really matter. We could argue as to whether each story is a story or a chapter, but why bother. I'd rather talk about this strange suburban town, these wonderfully off-center characters, the somewhat (and sometimes not somewhat) creepy things they do. Acampora's characters are honest, even when they are pretending not to notice cracks in the façade. They are charming, even when they are doing bad things. Maybe Old Cranbury isn't a town you'd want to visit, but for me it felt like places I've known, and that makes the characters who inhabit it all the more strange and wonderful. For me, this book felt like a cross between Olive Kitteridge and Kissing in Manhattan. A palpable place inhabited by familiar people doing odd things. If you are looking for a world in which every thread is neatly tied into a bow at the end, this book is probably not for you. Acampora leaves room for the reader to imagine the fates of characters we meet once, and then again, and then sometimes again. I was charmed and delighted by them all.