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Friday, May 9, 2008

Review: Lily In Bloom

by Margaret P. Cunningham

A stunning older woman. A mysterious younger man. A garden of infinite possibilities. When Lily McVay needs help keeping the terms of a rather unorthodox divorce settlement, the bond between her and handsome Will may prove that more is blooming than just the flowers.

LILY IN BLOOM is a treat. The characters struggle with many of life’s problems, but Mrs. Cunningham shepherds them through these difficulties with a style of writing that is eloquent and totally engaging. Southern humor weaves its way among the trials and tribulations to add even more delight to the story.

Margaret Cunningham made me feel like I’d been invited into the McVay home with gracious Southern hospitality. More than that, she brought in Lily’s friends and neighbors to make my visit a heartwarming experience. Not often does one come across an “I’ll help you bury the body, no questions asked” friend like Helen or an 80-something neighbor who tells fortunes, knows how to keep secrets, and enjoys life to its fullest.

The title LILY IN BLOOM implies a beautiful time in life, but we find Lily McVay is feeling like a flower “tossed in the compost pile for a younger, fresher flower” a.k.a. Heather. At 55 years old, Lily agrees with her friends that her deceased mother-in-law “would have treated a boll weevil with more respect” than she had treated Lily. Now Howard, the husband going through “puberty of middle age” or “old fool syndrome” seems to have taken up where his mother left off.

Lily, a little concerned about her sanity, tries to rid the family home of a sickening smell and icy chill someway connected with the deceased Rosemary McVay. Also, freaky phone calls plague her life as she tries to decide on her future. Furthermore, her “singlehood has turned Helen into a matchmaking monster” so she kindly but firmly tells her friend “I’ve gone out with every frog in the country. I’ve even kissed a few. …the princes are all taken. … I’m done.”

While these things make life miserable, Lily is more miserable about not having any marketable skills. She has been a rich man’s wife, a super volunteer, and member of many clubs, none of which prepared her to make a living for herself. But her most pressing problem is an unusual clause in the divorce agreement about Rosemary McVay’s garden.

Lily is overwhelmed with an overgrown garden she had agreed to resurrect to its full glory in time for the summer soiree, a tradition for years at the McVay home. Ignoring Howard’s declaration of McVay’s not accepting charity but giving it, she enlists the help of Will, a 34 year old ex-lawyer, who is doing community service gardening as part of the requirement to earn the title of Master Gardener from a program offered through the city’s botanical gardens.

Oh, how much fun it would be to tell you about the wonders of the garden’s rebirth and the birth of a friendship and a romance with all the pitfalls. However, I’ll let you find the joy by reading about them in the very well written work of Margaret Cunningham as she reveals the spellbinding story of how a May-December relationship blooms as the worrisome problems of life are resolved.

Review by Camellia