In the light of the Garden
Heather Burch

Lake Union Publishing, Seattle
ISBN: 978-1-503941144

Heather Burch stretches the limits of reality in her novel, “In the Light of the Garden,” but still manages to deliver a revitalizing read by adding a little magic and family dynamics.

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“. . . a feel-good novel without a lot of preachiness.”

The main character is Charity Baxter, age 31, who has little going on with her life except a failing pottery-making business, when she inherits her grandparents’ Gaslamp Island estate on Florida’s Gulf coast. When she returns to the island, she begins to uncover family secrets. Charity also discovers the powerful magic in and around her new inheritance, the massive “carnival house” built by William Baxter, a famous circus man, whose name coincidentally was the same as Charity’s grandfather who earned his fortune in the hardware business.  

Charity had planned her first action upon arriving at the house, which was to chop down the huge weeping-willow tree she had feared as a child. But she is stopped by others who told her they had experienced the power of the tree to resolve emotional pain. Landscape architect Dalton Reynolds, who has fled his former life and is living in a house next door, blamed himself for the death of his wife and child until he experienced the tree’s magic. The tree, he told her, “…didn’t  steal part of your heart; it just took your guilt away.”

Various intriguing characters also begin to arrive at the house: Her grandfather’s brother, estranged from the family for decades, and Charity’s narcissistic and selfish mother who wants half of the inheritance. But the most fascinating character is a runaway teenage girl who has found shelter in the upstairs attic of the house.

Because Burch advances the ideals of forgiveness, and of course, the value of love, there is little in this story not to like. It’s simply a feel-good novel without a lot of preachiness.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla