When we first bought our house , there was a rose garden in the back yard. I love roses. They are so beautiful, fragile and yet resilient, and the blossoms smell so good. But it took no more than a season or two for me to destroy each and every rose bush. They require a lot of tender, loving care.
I thought about my short-lived tenure as a rose gardener as I read The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway. Growing roses is not for the timid gardener. It requires a lot of patience, and you have to not mind getting stuck by the thorns.
Galilee “Gal” Garner – the protagonist in The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, has spent much of her adult life tending to her roses. She is not just a rose gardener, but passionately pursues her hobby of breeding new hybrids with the ultimate goal of getting a new rose into the market. She earns her living as a high school biology teacher, but who she is was primarily shaped by the fact that she has been on kidney dialysis for most of her life. She has had – and rejected – several kidney transplants. As the novel takes place, she is awaiting a new kidney, and must spend every other night undergoing dialysis. At the same time, she is awaiting recognition for her roses. It’s an interesting dichotomy.
Because so much of her parents’ lives were spent handling Gal’s illness, Gal’s younger sister grew up using drugs and alcohol to garner attention. Her actions result in her teenaged daughter Riley coming to live with Gal for a period of time. The situation changes all of their lives.
Gal’s personality is prickly at best. And my use of the term prickly is no accident, as Dilloway is clearly urging us to compare roses to our heroine. Thorny on the outside, but lovely when you look beyond the thorns.
The story develops slowly – perhaps a bit too slowly. Once you have the background (that is, learn a lot about kidney disease, dialysis, and roses), and more importantly upon the arrival of Riley, the storyline blossoms (sorry, no pun intended). I couldn’t put the book down.
Gal isn’t an easy character to like, and I think that’s the way Dilloway intended it. You know – roses with thorns. But she also isn’t an easy character to forget, especially once you get to know her. I enjoyed learning about roses. I now have a much clearer picture of what it’s like to depend on dialysis to live. I even understand the ups and downs of being a teacher.
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns is a lovely story, and I recommend you give it a read.