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The Night Garden    by Lisa Van Allen order for
Night Garden
by Lisa Van Allen
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2014 (2014)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you read Rappaccini's Daughter you'll realize that this haunting short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne provided the inspiration for this novel. In fact, Lisa Van Allen admits that not only did she read this Hawthorne story as a youth but that it also haunted her over the years.

Van Allen explains that writing The Night Garden allowed her to reconcile her feelings about the story plus it provided a chance for her to indulge her curiosity about poisonous plants.

The Night Garden opens a door into the mysterious world of Olivia Pennywort and the very unusual and dangerous sanctuary that has been created in her family's gardens.

The upper New York state Pennywort farm might seem ordinary, but its odd foliage/flowers have convinced the locals that time spent in the garden's maze can assist a person in dealing with some of life's most challenging questions.

After her mother's death Olivia has taken over the management of the property and garden. She has offered a place of refuge to women in need if they are willing to assist in maintaining the property.

A little leery of Olivia, her guests and garden, the locals send a policeman, a childhood friend of Olivia's, out to the farm to check it out. Although she has tried to maintain her distance from those around her, Olivia has had a crush on Sam Van Winkle since they were young. When she realizes Sam has similar feelings for her that he's harbored all these years, the story takes an interesting turn.

Olivia may want to take their relationship to a more intimate level but there are problems ... garden related problems. The maze she has long nurtured as a safe haven may now be Olivia's undoing. It is a thorny problem but one she'll have to deal with if she is to find happiness with her true love.

If you have read the Hawthorne short story that inspired this novel, don't assume you know how this longer tale will end because Van Allen has every intention on putting her own mark on this adventure of magical realism!

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