Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Naked Gardener by L.B. Gschwandtner

Book description:
In a remote forest of northern Vermont, Katelyn Cross takes five women on a wilderness canoe trip where they hope to come up with ideas for saving their dying town. Although the river is not always what it seems and the women have not left their problems behind, a painting ritual creates a new way to look at the world - and themselves.

Artist Katelyn Cross loves Greg Mazur and he loves her. He wants to be married but a previous relationship that went sour has made Katelyn overly cautious about any permanent commitment. And what about Greg's first wife? He lost her to cancer and Katelyn worries that he's only looking for a replacement. What's a girl to do? Canoe down a river with five gal pals, camp out, catch fish, talk about life and men. The problem is, a river can be as unpredictable as any relationship and just as hard to manage. On their last day, when the river turns wild, the women face the challenge of a lifetime and find that staying alive means saving themselves first while being open to help from a most unlikely source. As Katelyn navigates the raging water, she learns how to overcome her fear of change in a world where nothing stays the same. When Katelyn returns to her garden, she'll face one more obstacle and the naked gardener will meet the real Greg Mazur.

This is an interesting tale about life and love and women and relationships, an unexpectedly appealing story with great characters. The story revolves around Katelyn, an artist trying hard to maintain her distance from her live-in lover Maze. As she works through the reasons why she feels the way she feels, she finds herself leading a group of inexperienced paddlers on a canoe trip through the wilderness. Each of these women has a problem and of course the trip becomes a bonding experience that helps them work through these problems.

Despite what seems like a hackneyed plot, this book is actually quite enjoyable. The characters are appealing, both as individuals and as a group, and I was quickly pulled into their story. My initial dislike of Maze was eventually tempered as more of his character is revealed, and the sub-plot about their Vermont town was equally engaging. The ending makes it clear a sequel is in the works, but the author does an admirable job of wrapping up the story, providing enough of a conclusion to satisfy readers while introducing a hook to help sell the sequel. 4 strong stars- a great way to ring in the new year!

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