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Gardenias

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  275 ratings  ·  47 reviews
A month after the United States enters World War II, the country is in upheaval — and so is the Erhardt family. Nine-year-old Lark, her mother Arlene, and Aunt Betty are heading for San Diego, far away from Harvester, Minnesota and Arlene’s shiftless husband. In the booming wartime economy, Arlene and Betty are soon at work, leaving Lark alone to explore their new neighbor ...more
Paperback, 392 pages
Published August 23rd 2006 by Milkweed Editions (first published 2005)
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187th out of 387 books — 223 voters
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World War II Fiction
440th out of 643 books — 1,104 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 410)
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Sarah
Faith Sullivan's The Cape Ann is one of my all-time favorite novels, so much so that for years, each and every time I visited a library or bookstore I checked the shelves in the hope of finding more gems from her. I was tickled pink to discover, not only that she had written several other books but even better, that the charming Lark Erhardt's saga continued. That being said, early on in my perusal of Gardenias I was a bit taken aback. Where was the charm and innocence so deftly brought to the p ...more
Toni
A follow-up to the author's book "The Cape Ann." I found the writing a bit stilted to begin with, but the more I read the more I grew to appreciate the character development. I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Carmen Gwazdacz
Aug 07, 2011 Carmen Gwazdacz rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Carmen by: The Edina Public Library
While Gardenias is neither best written nor most interesting book I read this summer, it was still a good read. One that offered me something no other book has to date, a personal history lesson on my family. Told from the perspective of nine year old Lark Eardhart, she chronicles her family’s move from a small Minnesota town to San Diego in 1942. Lark’s parents have recently separated and her Aunt has suffered a personal tragedy so the two women with young Lark in tow head San Diego looking for ...more
Jane
This book is a sequel to Cape Ann. To recap, Cape Ann is a story about a young girl, Lark, her mother and father living in deplorable conditions during the depression in a small Minnesota town. Lark and her mother, Arlene, dream over plans for a Cape Ann house. Arlene finally saves enough money for a down payment only to have her abusive husband gamble the money away. This is the last straw. Arlene packs up her daughter and her sister for a move to California.

Gardenias starts with Lark, Arlene,
...more
Linda K
The life and mind of 9 year old Lark, from Harvester Minnesota in the 1930's, is the voice of this story, the roots of which were layed in the authors' 3 previous books in the series. World War II is now raging and Lark's mother has left her husband and, with her sister Betty, moved to a town in California, taking a reluctant Lark. The neighbors and others they meet become a major part in Lark's formative years there. Shirley, abused and ignored, is enveloped into the family, much to Lark's dism ...more
Deb
Loved this sequel to The Cape Ann as much as the first. Lark is a wonderful narrator and Faith Sullivan is a talented writer with a firm grasp of the details of the times she writes about. Hated to see the book end.
Su
This novel really grew on me. The three main characters hail from Minnesota, but are transplanted to California during World War Two. Arlene and Betty, two sisters, and Arlene's daughter Lark live in an area referred to as the Projects.While there they meet all sorts of colorful characters, some despicable and others that become great friends. The story is filled with love and unrequited love, deep friendships, abusive relationships and close ties of family. When I finished the book, I read the ...more
Jo Cavins
I reread the other Harvester novels and then read this one. Love her characters. This one has Lark telling the story of what happens in California.
Julie
Sequel to Cape Ann. At first thought it was going to be too derivative of the 1st to be as enjoyable, but I found I liked it almost as much.
Pamela
An excellent novel set primarily in San Diego during WWII, with complex characters and situations told in a simplistic voice through rich literary usage of symbolism, parallels, creativity, and historic importance. On the surface, "Gardenias" is the bittersweet coming-of-age story of ten year-old Lark, who is whisked away from Minnesota to California by her mother and aunt, to start afresh away from her alcoholic Papa. However, this novel is so much more. It is a study in humanity, and all its f ...more
Kirsten
Continues the story of The Cape Ann. Lark, Betty and Arlene have 'escaped' to California, but their lives catch up with them.
Margie Adler
This is my second time around reading this novel. I loved it. This is a poignant coming of age story. In this case, there's more than one character who grows and comes into her own. Sullivan's prose is full of tiny astonishments. The tension and inner life of Lark is absolutely palpable, and the character transformations very satisfying, yet there is nothing pat and predictable about this story. The historical context, the characters and their engaging interaction makes this a worthy literary jo ...more
Leslie
Such a wonderful storyteller!
Debbie
At first this didn't strike me as being as good as The Cape Ann--and maybe it isn't, but it is still pretty good. The author does a good job of developing character and creating relationships between the characters that develop and change over time. Lark, her mother, aunt and friend Shirley seem very much like real people. Are some of the outcomes a little pat? Sure, but not objectionably so--I wanted some happy endings. Another book to take Lark through high school? I hope so.
Pamela Pickering
3.5 Stars
A nice follow-up to its predecessor The Cape Ann. Sullivan allows us back into the lives of Lark, her mother, and her aunt as they land in California during WWII.

I didn't quite enjoy it as much as "The Cape Ann" but it still paints an interesting picture of life during that era. Sullivan adds a few more characters to allow more space in the story.
Kimberly
Takes place in CA during WWII. An eclectic group of people living in the projects trying to make a living and still have a life. The main character is a pre-teen girl from MN who becomes a young lady through some rough times. It shows the beginning of women starting to find freedom from the stereotype of wives and being able to think for themselves. I found it a raw picture of what could have happened during that era.
Suzanne
A story of women starting a life without men, during WWII, this is told in the naive voice of a young girl. Larks voice rings true, as she struggles with adolescent angst, including mixed feelings about her father (and sometimes mother), and her new friends in the California defense Project Homes. An interesting enough story, it was a bit too predictable and happy ending-ish for my taste.
Anika
This is the first book I've read by Minnesota author Faith Sullivan. It is a sequel, but I enjoyed it alone without having read the previous book, The Cape Ann. Lark, the young narrator, is charming. There were parts of the plot and character development that I found a bit unbelievable, but it was a good story with great language.
Colleen
It was a pretty interesting read. Historical fiction can be hit or miss but this one told a story, taught you about the time, and didn't seem too terribly contrived. Only at the end did I think, "Really? I'm supposed to believe that happened?" I learned more about San Diego and more about the WWII era.
Sharon
I couldn't believe how the author captured the era she was writing about. I felt transported to the times and feeling that were going on. She kept the story flowing. The references to the culture of the time, even the meals Lark helped prepare, were right on. Very interesting and fun book to read.
Kristalyn
I stopped reading this after only about 1/3 of the way through. I just don't like to read stories where there's harsh and (in my mind) maliciously evil stuff. Many women from my book club read it and enjoyed it, just 'getting past' the difficult part where I stopped reading it.
Rhonda
Mar 23, 2009 Rhonda added it
The book is slow, there are some loose ends that don't get tied up. The ending was flat. Overall it was an ok book and I enjoyed the historical facts, chracterization. The story was very believable but it's not a book for my taste. It was a book club choice.
Pat
This was another book written through the eyes of now nine year old Lark. She, her mother and her aunt are now living in San Diego during WWII. It is a wonderful journey through their day to day lives with adventures as this charming child can convey.
Sheri
After reading the Cape Ann, I chomped into this sequel about Lark and her family. It was as good as the first one and I enjoyed all the new characters in this book. I will definitely read more of Faith Sullivan's books!
Angela
Beautiful follow-up to The Cape Ann. Just as thoughtful and entertaining.
Jennifer
Not bad for a book I picked up randomly at Widener library. I enjoyed all the references to San Diego, where I am from. I would like to read the earlier book now.
Sharon
Really liked this book. Sullivan's writing style makes the book easy to read and with the character development makes the story easy to get into and stay with.
Terry
While her mother and aunt thrinve after a move to California, Lark struggles with jealousy and her writing talent, trying to survive her broken family.
Deb
Sep 24, 2013 Deb added it
enjoyed it much.. a coming of age story and more convincingly placed in 1940s

..in some ways, like Small Town Odds.. nice phrases, good ending..
Mary
Faith Sullivan is a Minnesota writer and a guest at the Chippewa Valley Book Festival 2011, October 18-23 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
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“Southern California had no quarterly miracles, no opportunities for starting over. Not everybody cares to pay the cold, silver coinage of winter for a seasonal renascence, but for me it was a small price.” 1 likes
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