"I received a box of flowers from my dead husband," begins Patti Hill’s first novel, Like a Watered Garden. The "I" is Mibby Garrett, widow of six months. The story is hers and she tells it in first person.
We join Mibby on May 2nd (the date on the first chapter) puttering in her yard. Of course the "box of flowers" was really not flowers at all but a box of bulbs delivered weeks after her husband Scott’s death the past November. Now as she looks for their sprouts, she flashes back to the accident and Hill begins to put in place the foundation for understanding why Mibby drives blocks out of her way to avoid a certain intersection, goes to meet 13-year-old son Ky to walk him home from school, and still hasn’t tackled the laundry or the grocery shopping.
For the next two months we follow Mibby around as she takes steps in coping with Scott’s death and comes to life again as a mother, friend and generally functioning person. She’s helped by her neighbor and guardian angel Louise who is constantly checking in on her to deliver basketfuls of leftovers from her B&B.
Mibby’s own garden design business is another salvation. It’s through this that she meets the handsome widower Ben. But that poses its own set of problems. Is the forlorn and neglected Ky, who has avoided talking about Scott because it upsets his mom, ready for a step-dad? And is Mibby herself ready for a new relationship when thoughts of Ben fill her with guilt and the fact she enjoys being with him makes her feel like an adulteress?
Mibby’s quirky storytelling voice with it’s range from hilarious to poignant is the book’s biggest strength. In addition to Mibby’s narrative, Hill makes us privy to her thoughts with wry asides (set in italic font), that further cement our loyalty to this hurting, self-deprecating but astute woman:
"Ben," I started again. "I’m a widow." That explains everything, doesn’t it?
"It hasn’t been that long." I’m still in the raw zone.
"November." Has it been that long?
Besides Mibby, Louise, Ky and Ben, other characters of note I enjoyed were "Earring girl," Droop (the handyman, so nicknamed because of his penchant to reveal a bit more of his backside than you really want to see), and Blink, Mibby’s black Lab.