Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Naked Gardener by L B Gschwandtner

Publishing Information:
Title – The Naked Gardener
Author –  L B Gschwandtner
Publisher - CreateSpace
Date Published - 2010
# of pages - 209

Genres & Themes: Contemporary Fiction. Women’s Issues, Small Towns, Canoeing/Camping Trips, Gardening

GoodReads – 18 Ratings, 4.0 Average Rating – 17 Ratings, 4.25ish Average Rating

On a remote river of northern Vermont, Katelyn Cross takes five women on a wilderness canoe trip where they hope to come up with ideas for saving their dying town. Although the river is not always what it seems and the women have not left their problems behind, a painting ritual creates a new way to look at the world – and themselves.

In her first novel, award winning writer L B Gschwandtner explores the push and pull of love, a woman’s need to maintain her individuality within marriage, and the bonds that can make women stronger even when the world feels as if it’s breaking apart.


* Author Q & A and discussion questions included in the back of the book.

* Comes with a package of flower seeds.

What I Thought:

I received The Naked Gardener at the start of November. It came direct from the author as a giveaway to participate in a book discussion over at The Next Best Book Club. The book came and immediately made me smile with its extra touch of including a package of flower seeds attached to the book with a pretty ribbon. I began to wonder...are these flowers so that I too can garden naked? The thought of it made me giggle. There is no way I am doing THAT. I may have a tall fence but there is also an apartment block towering over my neighbourhood and who knows how far their “peeping Tom” eyes can reach :D I began to read almost immediately, wondering what was in store for me in what seemed on the outside a crazy little book.

Well, the book surprised me in such a great way. Both the writing style combined with the interests and the voice of the book’s main character, Katelyn, spoke to me in a way that seemed incredibly close to life. Within the first few chapters I began to wonder if I was really reading fiction or if I was somehow mistaken and reading non-fiction instead. I even went so far to check the back of the book and online as well. It was indeed fiction and this really impressed me. One of the things I enjoyed most at the beginning of the novel was the description of gardening and Katelyn’s summer home.  The gardening scenes reminded me much of both my mother and grandmother in their own gardens (okay, leave out the naked part, and there you go).  However, as the book continued and Katelyn’s group of friends went on a weekend-long canoe trip this burst of reality came to life on a whole new level for me. The conversations these women have and their reactions to each other were yet again faithful to the way (I believe) many women actually act in real life.

On yet another level, L.B. Gschwandtner brings up the issues of equality in women’s lives, the importance of being one’s own person, and finding a place in the world (in a woman’s own life, with her own wishes and own circumstances). I’m not sure I quite understood everything she was doing here while I was reading the story or if I necessarily agreed with every detail of it. However, I really enjoyed how this was done. I really started to think about the issues of feminism and the downfalls of being “too preachy” with feministic agendas (the issue of equality really stands out here) in fiction. When I think of feminism I tend to think of a lot of negativity towards men or women trying to act like men to get what they want. I like LB’s gentle approach instead – lifting women up, allowing them to feel great about who they are (rather than trying to change them) and not trying to downplay too much the importance of men in women’s lives. I can’t be sure if this is the reason or if there is another I have not thought of, but I felt a constant air of joy while reading this story. There are some “complaints”, some tough decisions, and a few predicaments the women get themselves into. Somehow throughout all this I managed to have a constant smile on my face while reading – a joyful smile. Periodically – giggles.

But before I get too deep into what I liked most about this book I’d like to point out one small problem I had – and the only thing really holding it back from me considering this a perfect read. I did find it hard to relate to some of the characters. I’m not sure if this is because four of the characters backgrounds and physical descriptions are given to the reader one after the other and my memorizing skills just don’t work that way or for the following reason. L.B. points out in our discussion that she purposefully tries to show women at various stages of their lives. Looking back, it does make sense that the women I connected to most were those closest to my own age. I think this was a very clever way to create difference in her characters as well. I just wish I could have connected to all of them, but perhaps this just goes to show how much I loved the overall story that I actually cared about wanting to connect with the characters at all.

I would highly recommend this book. For anyone reading my review and thinking they would like these things also – I urge you to seek out this book. Then you too may have a smile on your face!

Recommended to: Women everywhere

Where you can purchase this book:
You can purchase this book through There is also a Kindle version available for download.
Please see the author’s website for more information.

Add this book to your GoodReads “to-read” list:
The Naked Gardener (Volume 1)

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