The Naked Gardener by L.B. Gschwandtner is like a slow, sweet dance, nothing showy or fancy and not a lot of explosions but with a stable steady progression into women’s friendships.
Main character Katelyn is the naked gardener of the title. That would certainly make her interesting enough — honestly, have you ever met a naked gardener or tried naked gardening? I haven’t, but I found the premise stirred my interest. Katelyn not only gardens naked, but she lives with her boyfriend in a renovated chicken coop on a farm in Vermont during the summers. It’s Katelyn, surprisingly, who is wary of marriage and seemingly happy with the status quo of co-habitating.
I found the pace of the book to be as leisurely as a Sunday afternoon down south. So much so that I had to remind myself during the course of the book that it takes place in Vermont and not south of Virginia. For that reason, The Naked Gardener may not be for every reader. If you are looking for a book chock full of action, explosions and/or supernatural events, The Naked Gardener is definitely not for you. Rather than the excitement-a-minute found on each page, The Naked Gardener is a study in characters and the diversity found in relationships.
For me, the relationships between Katelyn and the five ladies who accompany her on a canoeing trip is the best part (and majority) of the book. Each woman is individually distinct and brings an engaging aspect to the overall plot. It’s rare that it’s the supporting characters who bring so much shine to a novel, but it so happens in this case. In fact, I enjoyed Erica, Hope, Charlene, Roz and Valerie so much that I hope Ms. Gschwandtner writes a follow up to The Naked Gardener focusing on the exploits of these ladies, either separately or together. Each of them has a worthy story that would make for an excellent follow up.
I did wish, however, that there was a bit more development for Katelyn’s boyfriend Maze who felt a bit lacking to me. We did get some background on his previous relationship but he was very much a secondary character to Katelyn and her coterie of friends.
Overall, though, I thought The Naked Gardener was a satisfying read with an underlying female empowerment theme. It left me feeling grateful for the circle of female friends I have and desiring a girls’ weekend with them (although perhaps not canoeing!) I would not hesitate to recommend The Naked Gardener as a subtle, yet fulfilling, read.