Tending Roses
Lisa Wingate

Penguin Group (USA) Inc
Trade Paperback/294 pages
ISBN: 0-451-20307-0
Buy This Book



". . . a candle in the window on a dark, blustery night . . ."

Tending Roses : A search for family roots and understanding.


Kate and Ben Bowman take their four-month-old son Joshua to stay with Grandma Rose on the family farm in Missouri for three weeks before Christmas. Grandma Rose nearly burns down the utility room and forgets things more and more since her stroke. It isn’t safe for her to live alone anymore, and her family needs time to make other arrangements. Since Ben can do his architectural consulting work anywhere as long as he has his computer, and Kate is still on maternity leave, they agree to go and stay until Christmas when the family gathers and tells Grandma Rose she has to go into a nursing home.

Kate is apprehensive about going back to the farm. She hasn’t been there since her mother’s funeral six years ago, and she doesn’t want to go now, but someone has to take care of Grandma Rose. Kate feels uncomfortable around her grandmother who always criticizes and is so careful of her floors and furniture and things. Everything must be done her way, and Kate hates feeling on edge, especially now when she’s so worried about Josh’s health. Josh has had several operations to repair his heart since he was born and, despite the doctor telling Kate to treat him as a normal baby, Kate has difficulty relaxing. Three weeks at the farm is not what she needs or wants right now on top of everything else. It’s a good thing Ben can be happy anywhere. Kate hopes Ben can run interference and smooth things out between her and her grandmother—at least until Christmas.

Bernice Vongortler, known as Grandma Rose to her family, is a determined woman who won't be dissuaded from her chosen path. She doesn’t think there’s anything wrong, and she doesn’t need a guardian. Grandma Rose daunts even the minister at her church who would rather find somewhere else to be when she is expected. A little of Grandma Rose goes a long way. Nevertheless, she is happy Kate is coming for a nice, long visit and that her family will soon gather around her for Christmas for the first time in years. In the meantime, she is determined to thwart her son and daughter’s plans to put her in a home and sell off the farm. Kate is her best chance to keep the farm together and in the family as it has been for 120 years.

Author Lisa Wingate draws on her own experiences and her grandmother’s stories to create the world in which Grandma Rose and her family and neighbors live and work. Wingate digs beneath the surface of a small rural community and the emotions and fears that drive her characters to create the winning and wonderful Tending Roses. She uncovers the forces and experiences that drive a family apart, bring them together again, and eventually help them understand each other. Grandma Rose’s prickly personality shields the wounded heart of a child from a poor family who has used her life to draw a beautifully written map to show the way to another life. From Kate’s fear and longing in the wake of returning memories, hopes for a better future and dealing with her alienation from her sister and father, Wingate’s masterful and winning prose goes straight to the heart. From the first paragraph, the characters draw the reader in and keep one spellbound as the reader follows them along the rocky and rutted road to understanding themselves and each other.

Tending Roses is a candle in the window on a dark, blustery night. It promises rest and warmth to travelers lost in the storm, certain to touch the heart and stir the soul. Keep the tissues handy.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell