Monday, June 8, 2020

One Old, One New: The Abbi Waxman Edition

One Old, One New features two books - one old, one new, which are connected in some way. Today, I am sharing two books by Abbi Waxman.
I Was Told It Would Get Easier
Abbi Waxman
Age/Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Berkley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Jessica and Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go.

For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right?

For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself.

Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.
Single mom (by choice), Jessica, saw this college tour as a way to reconnect with her teen daughter, Emily. Juggling her successful career as a lawyer with parenting had always been a challenge, but now Jessica was ready to give Emily her full attention, and hoped it wasn't too late to salvage their relationship. 

The number one reason why I come back for Waxman's books is her humor. She never fails to make me laugh, and I really enjoyed this amusing and heartwarming story. For me, it was a tale of a mother and daughter trying to figure out where they fit into each other's lives. Needless to say, I related to this story. I remember how my relationship with my daughter morphed and changed as she grew older. It challenging trying to allow your child to exercise their autonomy, while still having some say-so in their life. I thought that idea was beautifully and realistically explored in this book. I legit felt Jessica's pain and frustration, when she had to hold her tongue or resist giving her daughter a push in the right direction. But, she couldn't argue with the end results. 

I obviously connected with the mother part of this mother-daughter story, but I also enjoyed getting to know Emily better. She felt like a typical teen to me, and her interactions with her mother were signature teen girl. However, she had a lot of hidden depth. I especially like how she was grappling with what to do after high school. She was expected to go from her tony private school to college, but Emily wasn't sure that was the right path for her. I always like seeing this in books, because I agree, that college isn't for everyone. I, therefore, definitely welcomed this to the story, and when she finally shared her passion and how it was acquired, it sort of pulled at my heartstrings. 

The book was filled with fun antics, and a lot of meaningful discussions and self reflections. As much as Jessica wanted this trip to help her get to know her daughter better, it also allowed her, and Emily, to learn a lot about themselves. Both women figured out a lot of important things about the impact their mothers had on their lives, and the influence they had on each other.  

Overall, I had an incredible time on this road trip. Not only were Jessica and Emily fantastic, but they were accompanied by a full cast of fabulous characters, who all added to the fun. As always, Waxman managed to both fill my heart with warmth and laughter, but she also me wistful and wanting to relive those days with my own daughter. 

**ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

The Garden of Small Beginnings
Abbi Waxman
Age/Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Berkley
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
In the spirit of A Man Called Ove and Good Grief--a poignant, funny, and utterly believable novel about life and loss.

Give grief a chance . . .

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years--ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she's just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she's becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.

At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks--like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there's that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can't be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.

After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she'll soon discover--with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners--is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not...
It had been three years since Lily watched her husband die, and though she was better, her grief still cast a shadow over her. As part of a work assignment, Lily had to attend a gardening class, and new life sprouted both in the garden and in Lily. 

My love for Waxman's books is unending. She is a solid member of my list of authors, who never fail to bring me joy. I have now read four books by this author, and every one of them was relatable and full of humor, warmth, and heart. 

Lilian was a woman, who had to rebuild her life after suffering a mental breakdown in the wake of her husband's death. With support from her sister, she was able to regain some stability, but it was evident, that she never really got past his death. Though the story was filled with tons fun and wit, it was accompanied by some really tender and beautiful moments shared between Lilian and her girls, as well as between Lily and her sister. Waxman had me laughing one minute, and near tears the next, because I could feel Lilian's pain and loss. 

Lilian was definitely the star of this book, but Waxman assembled an outstanding supporting cast. Her sister was phenomenal. Rachel was a pillar of support for her sister. Not only did she assume responsibility for her young nieces, when their mother was recovering, but she continued to be there for Lilian, and wasn't afraid to give her a push in the right direction. 

There was also Lilian's garden family. What. A. Crew. Each person in this group was so special, and I loved the way they formed such an incredible found-family. I had such an amazing time with them in the garden, and liked seeing their friendship grow outside of the garden. There were some unexpected connections among that group, and it just warmed my heart seeing them mesh, and fill out each other's lives. 

And, don't forget the girls. Lilian had one daughter, who remembered bits about her father, and another, who was too young to remember much. Though most of the time, these two were just balls of adorableness, there were these moments, where they reflected on the loss of their father, and cracked me in two. I don't think Lilian fully realized the impact her husband's death had on her daughter's, and the older one, in particular, really opened up the conversation. Some really special moments. 

There was a touch of romance in this book, as well. It's a very small part of Lilian's story, but an important part. She was shocked to find herself attracted to someone, who was not her husband, and grappled with many emotions associated with this part of moving forward. I have to say, Waxman crafted a lovely man to be the first to creep his way into Lilian's heart. He was kind, sweet, intelligent, and good with the girls. I absolutely adored Edward, and found myself cheering for these two the whole time. 

This book was near perfect for me. By the end, I knew Lilian had made some headway with her grief, but I must admit, I would have liked to have seen a bit further past the ending. Nonetheless, I found this story funny, witty, sometimes wise, and so heartfelt. 

Do you like to garden?
Let us know in the comments!

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