A Victory Garden for Trying Times

Overview

“A compelling and intimate reflection on love and grief and ordinary things that comfort and sustain us.” — Alison Smith, award-winning journalist

Ever since her childhood on a Niagara farm, Debi has dug in the dirt to find resilience. But when her husband, Peter, was diagnosed with cancer in November, it was too late in the season to seek solace in her garden. With idle hands and a fearful mind, she sought something to sustain her through the months ahead. She soon came across Victory Gardens — the vegetable gardens cultivated during the world wars that sustained so many.

During an anxious winter, she researched, drew plans, and ordered seeds. In spring, with Peter in remission, her garden thrived and life got back on track. But when Peter's cancer returned like a killing frost, the garden was a reminder that everything must come to an end.

A Victory Garden for Trying Times is a personal journey of love, loss, and healing through the natural cycles of the earth.

Reviews

It sounds paradoxical to say that I found this profoundly sad story buoyant, but I did. To borrow from the title, this beautifully written memoir balances between 'trying times' and 'victory,' between the pain of Peter Kavanagh's cancer and the inspiring courage and optimism of the couple. And through it all runs Goodwin's garden — a retreat, a symbol of hope and a reminder that our life, like her gorgeous vegetables, has a beginning and an end.

Katherine Ashenburg, author of Sophie & Cecilia

A compelling and intimate reflection on love and grief and ordinary things that comfort and sustain us — like getting your hands dirty. A timeless journey for anyone who finds beauty in the light that filters through a canopy of trees or the damp sweet smell of freshly turned earth.

Alison Smith, award-winning journalist

Victory Garden for Trying Times is about gardening the way Izaac Walton's The Compleat Angler is about fishing or Herman Melville's Moby Dick is about whaling. Much of this story is about cloves and carrots and tomatoes and weeds and such. But it's also a touching love story that will break your heart. The Victory Garden of the title refers to vegetable patches ordinary people cultivated in wartime. Researching, planning and eventually cultivating her own backyard modern Victory Garden was a hobby that became a backdrop for the larger story: the desperate battle her husband was waging against cancer. The parallel tale is the intriguing history of the real wartime Victory Gardens. And sprinkled throughout are actual tips on gardening. But, it’s essentially a story of the heart, with a sweet and compelling mix of grief and tenderness.

Dan Bjarnason, author of Triumph at Kapyong

A moving recounting of love and loss and the attempt to find solace though a 'Victory' garden. The name is sadly ironic at first, and then becomes a form consolation in the end. I read the second half of this heartbreaking memoir in one sustained session because I needed to know the details of how the story ended. After setting it down, I thought about the book all evening and over breakfast the next day. This powerful afterlife of a book in the reader's mind is a sign of its great power — I enjoyed it immensely.

Antanas Sileika, author of Buying on Time

Debi Goodwin has written a poignant memoir that tears away at your heart. Yet she writes with such sensitivity and a keen eye about her garden and how it ushered her through bad times with refreshing insight. You will want to read it more than once.

With bare sincerity, Debi Goodwin takes us through the struggle of her winter, to spring seedlings unfolding with hope, to the longing for summer in the midst of summer. And when the light shifts in autumn, she sheds new meaning on victory itself.

Jackie Kai Ellis, bestselling author of The Measure of My Powers

About the Author

Debi Goodwin

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 18, 2018
Debi Goodwin photo

Debi Goodwin

Debi Goodwin is the author of Citizens of Nowhere and a former CBC television producer. She is also a travel writer, blogger, and avid photographer.