When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.
Eva—known to all as Lovey—grew up in Oxford, MS, surrounded by literary history and her mother's stunning perennial gardens. But a garden shed fire and the burns suffered by one of her best friends seemed to change everything. Her older sister Bitsy blamed her for the fire—and no one spoke up on Lovey’s behalf. Bitsy the cheerleader, Bitsy the homecoming queen, Bitsy married to a wealthy investor. And all the while, Lovey bears the brunt of everything that goes wrong.
At eighteen, Lovey turns down a marriage proposal and flees to Arizona—the farthest thing from the South she can imagine. She becomes a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, and she seems to have it all together. But she's alone. And on her 45th birthday, she can't help but wonder what's wrong.
When she gets a call from her father insisting that she come home three weeks early for her parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration, she's at wits end. She's about to close the biggest contract of her career, but his words, "Family First," hit too close to home.
Eva's journey home to the memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise for her mother becomes one of discovering roots, and truth, and love, and what living perennially in spite of disappointments and tragedy really means.
Eva thought she wanted to leave her family and the South far behind . . . but she's realizing she hasn't truly been herself the whole time she's been gone.
My Review of Perennials
Julie Cantrell’s Perennials is the powerful novel of The Sutherland Family and their ability to love, forgive and find their way home again.
Bitsy and Lovey Sutherland were inseparable as children growing up in rural Oxford, Mississippi. Spending time outdoors with companions Finn and Fisher, the sister’s days were filled with flower gardens, playing games and catching fireflies. But as Bitsy enters her teenage years things begin to change for the sisters. Feeling peer pressure to fit in and be popular, Bitsy no longer enjoys the carefree days of playing outdoors and getting dirty. In time her carefree spirit turns spiteful and angry and Lovey finds she is the target of her older sister’s venom. When a tragic accident occurs involving Finn and Fisher, Bitsy points the guilty finger at Lovey and thus begins years of bitter feuding. As the years go by and the sisters grow further apart Lovey decides to leave rural Mississippi for Arizona despite the pleas of her parents and a marriage proposal from Fisher.
As time goes by Lovey settles into her new life at Apogee, a successful advertising firm in Phoenix. Her love life however, is another matter. Having been through an ugly breakup, Lovey is determined to put love and relationships behind her and concentrate on nothing but work. With a new campaign that could bring huge profits to her advertising firm and a large bonus to fund an early retirement for her, Lovey throws herself into her work. With her parents 50th Wedding Anniversary around the corner Lovey has to slay this project and meet her milestones in order to make it home for the party. As she has not been home in years she knows her parents are looking forward to their reunion. But an urgent phone call from her parents asking her to return weeks before the party without explanation has her in a bind. Although the Jansana account is critical, her parents Laurel and Chief, have always come first. Determined to make it all work, Lovey reluctantly leaves for Oxford hoping to return to Arizona as soon as possible.
Once home it’s clear to Lovey not much has changed. She finds she has missed Mississippi more than ever. Being with her parents evoke memories of childhood, both sweet and bitter, but regardless she is glad she has made the journey home. Seeing Fisher once again ignites a spark she thought long ago extinguished and her feud with Bitsy escalates despite the years and distance apart. As The Sutherlands 50th Wedding Anniversary draws near and feelings intensify between Fisher and Lovey, Bitsy's verbal attacks on Lovey redouble. As emotions come to a head and Lovey decides to run back to Arizona to avoid conflict and a work crisis, her parents disclose the truth behind her real call home. Lovey must decide to make a stand for her parents and Fisher, while trying to close the emotional gap between herself and Bisty before it’s too late.
I loved Perennials. This is the kind of book I like to sink my teeth into. It has beautiful, well developed characters and a storyline that tugs at your heart. The author skillfully builds the tension and plot throughout the book, until the turning point where everything breaks loose and all the pieces fall into place. I also love when an author gives us a great Prologue and an Epilogue. It sets the stage for what will happen throughout the book and gives us closure at the end of the story. I loved Lovey and Fisher’s characters. They are true and human in the face of all they have endured. Bitsy, on the other hand, was much harder to like. Even when the author gave the story closure and you see why she operates as she does, I still had a hard time trusting her. The damage she had done to Lovey and Fisher all those years was surreal. And last, but not least we have Laurel and Chief. They were a beautiful and unique couple and the legacy they left behind will live on in their children and grandchildren for a lifetime.
If you want a great read that will keep you turning the pages and your emotions flowing then Perennials is the book for you. A beautiful story that is hard to put down with characters that will make you smile and make you cry.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson-Fiction via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Perennials by Julie Cantrell for a fair and honest review.
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