‘The Memory Garden’ by Bary Rickert is the story of young Bay, a 16 year-old girl, living with her Nana. The woman could easily be her grandmother but she does her best. After all, Bay one day ended up on her doorstep and she took it upon herself to take care of the little baby.
Nana is not an ordinary old lady though. People in town whisper, they think she is a witch, which is difficult for Bay at school because hearing other kids call your mother names is not fun. But she puts on a brave face and ignores it because witches don’t exist right?
Over the summer, Nana invites her childhood friends over. They haven’t seen each other in decades. They parted ways after school and never heard of each other again until then because they share a secret of which they are afraid it would get out but as the story progresses, you learn it was nothing bad, just a product of the time back then. The three of them warm up to each other again all while explaining Bay that, yes, witches exist and she is one herself.
In the beginning, it felt a little bit slow going and it took me a while to get warm with the story but once it roped me in, I really liked it! The three old women have a lot of charm and the more you learn about their history the more you feel for them. Throw in the little bit os supernatural stuff and it is a good mix.
Obviously, every author does their own turn on the witch storyline just like they do with werewolves and wizards. Nana is no typical witch who sits over her cauldron making potions. It is more Wicca-esque. (Based on my very rudimentary understanding of Wicca).
One of the side characters is Howard, a young man who fought with his parents over him being gay and I appreciate the throw in of a gay character. It was done quite nicely in my opinion and I especially loved that these old women were all NBD about it. Of course this is only a minor sub-plot to the bigger storyline but it was a good addition.
This is Mary Rickert’s first published novel and while I may sound very picky and pretentious but it shows here and there. The storyline in itself is great, it has more to do with the style and prose it is written in. It felt a bit clunky at times, didn’t flow as nicely as it could have but that really is a very minor point about this overall lovely story.
I wish I could visit Bay and Nana at their house with the shoe garden, it sounds magical and very lovely. Must have been a great place to grow up, which is probably why I enjoyed the story so much. The characters felt real. They had flaws and were far from perfect, which is a great thing because we are like that as well. We make mistakes, some pay for them more than others and this is what the story is about. It is also about forgiveness because Nana thinks she has done something horrible, well actually two horrible things and she has lived most of her life in fear of those secrets seeing the light of day. They took away her closets friends but in the end, she had nothing to worry about. I guess, that is rather sad, to lose so much time with people that matter to you because you are afraid but as long as you reunite at some point, it’s still okay.
Anyway. I can really recommend The Memory Garden.