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Lost in the Garden    by Philip Beard order for
Lost in the Garden
by Philip Beard
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

I have never read a contemporary fiction novel that has kept me absorbed throughout - that is until I read Philip Beard's Lost in the Garden. As this is a book about an estranged father, a game of golf, and a lifetime of sexual experiences, I was surprised at how engaging it was to me, a female reader.

Michael Benedict currently has two goals in his life: to break 70 at the Fox Run Golf and Hunt Club and move back home with his pregnant wife Kelly and their two girls. As the book opens, he is failing miserably at both. On the first tee, he cannot stop thinking about the fact that his wife kicked him out (he does not reveal her reason until the last chapter) and the fact that his golf scores have been terrible for the past few months. When his lifelong caddy Sal realizes what is bothering Mike, he helps him learn that a game of golf does not just have to be about golf and that it is okay to think about other things on the course than just the game.

Armed with this wisdom, Mike approaches the second tee and begins to reminisce about his earliest sexual experiences at the age of six and then his discovery of girly magazines at age ten. As his golf game gets better, he mentally travels through his high school years of being best friends with girls but never getting any. As his mind relives his sexual escapades in college and grad school and then his early and later years with his wife, he is still on his game. It is not until he hits the thirteenth hole that his thoughts turn to the rift between him and Kelly and his game begins to suffer. Sal realizes the problem and takes more drastic measures to keep Mike and his golf game on track.

Beard has a unique writing style, where he not only gets into the character's head but the reader's head as well. He knows how to dole out just enough information about the conflict to string readers along, keeping them on the edge of their seats through the entire novel, a trait that is uncommon in a story that's not a thriller. He also knows how readers think. The beginning of Chapter Five is a perfect example of this, and made me completely fall for this book. Mike, speaking directly to the reader, expressed my exact thoughts in the first few sentences of this chapter, which had me amazed.

At its root, though, Lost in the Garden is about a father trying to reconnect with his family. The fact that Beard can effortlessly mesh this serious side with lighter matter shows a rare talent that will have readers hooked. Even though I feel that Philip Beard aimed his novel at men, especially fathers, I think that all adults who enjoy a good, well-written book will want to pick it up.

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