Book Review: THE MEMORY GARDEN by Mary Rickert

MemoryGarden
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: May 6, 2014
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: ★★½


An atmospheric and eerie crossover debut of mothers and daughters, friendship and forgiveness, that’s being compared to early Alice Hoffman and classics like The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

 Sixteen-year-old Bay Singer doesn’t believe the rumors that her eccentric mother, Nan, is a witch. It’s just the gossip of their small town, Bay thinks, until two eccentric friends from Nan’s past unexpectedly appear one afternoon. The curious reunion summons haunting memories: of an oath the three women took years ago, when they were girls themselves, and the devastating secret they promised to protect. What they unearth has already claimed one life, leaving Bay wondering who the real witches are, and who is truly wicked.


THE MEMORY GARDEN is a curious coming-of-age story threaded through with magical realism, unsettling memories, and herbal folklore. At the heart of the story is Bay, a teenage girl being raised by her adoptive mother Nan, an elderly woman thought to be a witch. Nan has spent many years harboring guilt over a tragedy from her girlhood. Just after Bay’s 15th birthday, Nan invites the two friends who share her dark secret to visit, hoping to put the ghosts of the past to rest.

I was very intrigued by the premise of THE MEMORY GARDEN, but unfortunately the story and characters never quite clicked with me. The book had a slow start, and much of what was going on was hard for me to follow. After the big build up, the revelation at the end was a bit disappointing. I also wish the prose had flowed smoother than it did. The odd, choppy dialogue between characters didn’t help my confusion.

That said, there were parts of the book I enjoyed. I loved the strange atmosphere the author created with Nan’s rustic old house, her eccentric garden of mismatched shoe planters, and the restless spirits drawn to Bay and Nan. I also liked how the book highlighted the friendship between Nan, Ruthie, and Mavis that couldn’t be broken, even after decades apart.

Even though this book didn’t work for me, readers who like quirky tales, ghost stories, and magical realism might want to give it a try.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: THE MEMORY GARDEN by Mary Rickert

  1. Sorry it wasn’t a winner for you. I like some magical realism – as in the books of Sarah Addison Allen. Not sure this one is for me. I have little patience for slow starts. That’s all on me though.

  2. Interesting — the book actually sounds like something that would appeal to me. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on why it didn’t really work for you. Definitely points to keep in mind if I decide to read it.

  3. I’m sorry you didn’t end up liking it! It does sound like an interesting premise, but I’ll have to think more about whether I’ll try it out.

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