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The Garden Angel

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  305 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In Sans Souci, South Carolina, talk is cheap, real estate even more so. No one knows this better than Cutter Johanson, a gruff tomboy who waits tables, writes obits, and makes every effort, however comical and in the face of her mercenary relatives, to avert the sale of the dilapidated ancestral home. And despite her plucky resolve, all appears to be lost--until she strike ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Picador (first published 2004)
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I decided to read this book because the author graduated from the university where I am a librarian, and she's back this semester teaching a journalism class. The book is described as being similar to Alice Hoffman, and it is in the sense that the story is about women without a big support network going through hard times, but without the magical elements that I was hoping for (to truly be like Hoffman.)

The story takes place literal miles from where I live, in Sans Souci, an old mill town that i
This book explores the limitations set on people by fear. Irrational fear based on the acceptance of one's inadequacies and failures. The character Elizabeth suffers from an anxiety disorder that doesn't allow her a simple trip to the grocery store. She has trouble forcing herself out of the house into her yard let alone into the work place. She cannot get the concentration and motivation to finish her dissertation. While I don't suffer from a mental condition, but rather a physical one, I felt ...more
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were well constructed, and I particularly liked Elizabeth, who suffers from intense anxiety. After moving along at a comfortable pace, the book did seem to run quickly through the ending, but was saved by the epilogue. I would read this book again.
Mary Beth
I loved this book. I'm a sucker for a well thought-out book that delves into complex, unusual relationships in a unique writing style. I want to read it again already!
Aug 22, 2008 Lori rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lori by: public library readers' fave list
Cutter, a can-do southern orphan in her 20's, works two jobs (flipping pancakes and writing obits) in her slowly dying southern small town to try to earn the money to save her grandma's run-down old mansion before her greedy selfish troubled siblings sell it out from under her. Cutter inadvertently makes friends with the wife of the professor with whom her sister is having an affair. The wife is brilliant but fragile, trapped at home by extreme phobias and fears ala Emily Dickinson. Wife and Cut ...more
Kathy H
I truly enjoyed this book. Friddle is an excellent character-builder; her quirky book-people and their everyday weird life situations touch the kindness, humour, oddness, determination, weaknesses in all of us. It is a love story of sorts; of finding one's heart's desire, be that another person to love, a home, a sense of community and a place therein.

I usually have a hard time identifying with contemporary "realistic fiction" but these characters I felt I knew from my college days. I could even find the plot of this book to be believable. The pregnancy of one woman brings together two very unlikely friends who help each other solve real estate and infidelity problems.
Denise Ellis
The Garden Angel touched me not only by the characters in the book but how my life has been similar to all the emotions I found between its []pages. A humorous look at how we handle the things life throws at us and even though we feel beaten we find a strength in us that we were not aware existed.
Wonderful first book by SC upstate author Mindy Friddle. Terrific story, with finely drawn characters. Greenville natives will recognize many of the neighborhoods and places.
This was a perfect follow up to the Land that Moves, Land that Stands Still. Not that they are related or have anything to do with one another, but this was a light yet engaging read. Based in a small town in South Carolina, the main character Cutter works at a pancake joint and writes obits for the town newspaper. Her Gran who raised her, along with her brother and sister has recently died. All Cutter wants to do is keep her family house, but the siblings want to sell. Cutter tries at every tur ...more
Cutter lives in the family home which has been reduced from many acres to a grand house that is now rather shabby. She is trying to hold onto the home against the wishes of her sister and brother who are more eager for the $$$. She is 20-something and works as a waitress in a pancake house and as the obit editor for a small newspaper. Elizabeth, who is losing her professor husband (to Cutter's sister), struggles to leave her home, but she meets and befriends Cutter. They forge an unlikely friend ...more
A quirky, entertaining and well written book. The setting is an old mill town down south and the decaying neighborhood that once flourished.

Two woman's lives are intertwined by a husband's infidelity. One of the women is working two jobs to hang onto her family's historic home, the other is a scholar writing a thesis on Emily Dickenson and is isolated and anchored to home from Agoraphobia. Throw into the mix a home for mentally disabled men and the sweet residents there, the regulars at the town
The only reason I gave this three stars (instead of 2) is because I liked the ending, and the idea of turning the dilapidated house Cutter lives in into a B&B. I found the characters trite, the storyline overdone, and really the only positive things I can say about this book are: 1) that it is a fast read and 2) I liked the Emily Dickinson poetry spread through it. This is really an unremarkable book, and I doubt I would read anything by the author in the future.

And by the way, why did poor
I loved this book. I found myself hating it--it's very slow and languid, kind of like a hot Southern summer day, and you kind of have to pick your way through it, but it's a wonderful story and written beautifully. Friddle is the type of writer I aspire to be: she makes you work for it, and makes you want to work for it. By the end, I couldn't put it down. And the book comes with a pretty happy ending, which made me even happier. Things don't always work out exactly the way we want, but they usu ...more
I actually kind of struggled through this one, good premise but just didn't keep my interest.
The Garden Angel caught my attention after reading another book by Mindy Friddle, The Secret Keepers. I was not at all disappointed by her writing in her earlier work. The Garden Angel tells a story that most of us can relate to, the need to feel "rooted". It intertwines the role of siblings, spouses, neighbors, and friends around the tale of a town just struggling to survive like its inhabitants. It was a pleasant read that gave you just the right amount of "lift".
Super-interesting relationships in this book. We meet a woman (our heroine) and her sister first, then her sister's lover followed quickly by sister's lover's wife, who becomes friends with our heroine, and a ton of other delightful peripheral characters. It's a great story about family and friendship and HOME, and what is worth fighting for. It wasn't earth-shattering, but I did enjoy it a lot and felt strong and convicted as a Southern woman while reading it.
This is what I've found for SC themed book for book club. :) It was cute. A quick fluffy chick lit read, and I probably don't space myself with enough of those. Cutter is the main character, deeply attached to the old family home. Her brother and sister want to sell. Meanwhile Cutter has somehow become friends with the agoraphobic wife of her sister's illicit lover, and...... well, it's an odd but interesting story. Not bad for a first book.
Found this one browsing through to see what I could listen to next. It looked like a good light-hearted read, which was what I was in the mood for, and the reviews on Amazon made it sound fabulous.

I was disappointed. It was just ok; not one you're missing out on if you never get around to reading. Maybe my hopes were set too high at other readers' reviews, but it just wasn't memorable for me.
Three grandchildren inherit their grandmother's house. Two of them want to sell it but Cutter one of the girls doesn't want to. Her sister Ginnie is having an affair with a married professor. His wife and Cutter become friends. Cutter helps Elizabeth (the wife) overcome her mental fears and issues. A lot of feeling going on in this book. A lot of dynamics covered. Good read.
Chick lit that devolved into a soap opera -- one sister is having an affair with a married man, the other sister befriends his wife...there's a pregnancy....the house has to be saved. Feh.

I did like it for its sympathetic portrayal of the wife, who has anxiety disorder. I think it's rare for that to be portrayed sympathetically, and from what I can tell, realistically.
I love Southern fiction and this was no exception. This is a wonderful debut novel from Mindy Friddle. The characters are quirky,funny and believable. Ms. Friddle paints beautiful pictures with her words and I felt like I was sitting on Cutter's crumbling old porch watching the story unfold. So cozy and warm, I hated to see it end. Can't wait for her next book.
Adele Stratton
A first novel that was for the most part well written, it was an engaging, sad and funny southern tale with memorable characters. My only complaint is that Friddle was a bit heavy-handed with the adjectives. A willow wept profoundly over a grave?
Entertaining, but predictable.
The tough heroine with a heart of gold struggles against long odds to save her family home, touching hearts along the way. The character of Elizabeth, the "shy and fragile academic" is particularly well written.
Kitty Tomlinson
Cutter begins a chaotic friendship with her sister's lover's wife. This leads to complications when her sister becomes pregnant as Cutter is trying to save her family home.
This is a "guilty pleasure" novel for me. A fast read that takes place in the south. Well written for a debut, many emotions involved. It was perfect for that little get away.
Not too deep, not too long, not too complicated, a tidy ending - a decent summer read. Sisters, affairs, old houses, gardens, pretty easy stuff to keep you turning pages.
Preferred the Cutter chapters at first over the Elizabeth ones but by the end it all came together. In fact I LOVED the ending. All in all a good read!
Jennifer M
I did not enjoy this book at all. The relationship between Cutter and Wife (Elizabeth) is unrealistic. No excitement.....very boring.
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Mindy Friddle is author of The Garden Angel, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and NPR Summer Reading pick. Her second novel,Secret Keepers was published in May 2009. For more information, including excerpts, book club discussion questions and the inspiration behind the books, visit and her blog,Novel Thoughts: Musings on Writing, Reading, and the Ear ...more
More about Mindy Friddle...
Secret Keepers: A Novel The Garden Angel: A Novel Secret Keepers: A Novel The Garden Angel

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