Literary Hook: ‘Eve’s Garden’, debut novel by Glenda Bailey-Mershon, a masterpiece

Christine Swanberg
Christine Swanberg

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

Glenda Bailey-Mershon’s debut novel, Eve’s Garden, is a masterpiece. Richly detailed and layered with the historical ambiance of place and family, the novel delivers a warm and stunning saga.

Told through the voices of various women, Eve’s Garden is both a rite of passage story as well as a search for a secret legacy that is revealed with both a sweet lyricism and crisp language.

Woven subtly into thesubtext is the “Roma,” or “Gypsy,” thread, which is developed throughout the novel.

The reader learns who the real Romani people are, dispelling the misguided notion of these interesting and noble people, whose code of ethics is more righteous than they are given credit for.

This virtuoso novel, like a fine symphony, succeeds on many levels, sweeping the reader away. The hard and soft edges of small-town life, especially for women coming of age in the rural South before the feminist movement, sings with details that are familiar to those of us who grew up in that era.

For us, Eve Gates’ journey rings true in a time when young women’s choices were limited to teacher, nurse or secretary. Her desire to live a large life that might include Paris and places beyond, balanced with the need to care for family, find love and settle down, are exactly what we remember, too. That she is able to find a way to have both leaves us with hope.

In this 400-page opus magna, the reader will encounter vivid characters: the spirited unwed mother, the Romani brethren, the kind-hearted caretaker, the nerdy girl who becomes a beauty, the matron whose spirit lingers, the unholy preacher, the bi-polar doctor who ends up in an institution, and many more. Through it all, Eve Gates learns lessons that her intelligent and compassionate heart holds dear and finally comes to terms with.

Told with a relish of humor, set in a lush landscape where persimmons that represent remembrance grow, Eve’s Garden is a satisfying and mature novel, one that is sure to steal the hearts of those who read it.

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Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.

From the June 18-24, 2014, issue

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