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The Garden of Small Beginnings

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  15,219 ratings  ·  2,367 reviews
In the spirit of A Man Called Ove and Good Grief--a poignant, funny, and utterly believable novel about life and loss.

Give grief a chance . . .

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years--ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she's just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can no
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 2nd 2017 by Berkley Books
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Abbi Waxman I never said what it was. I just left it up to everyone's imagination. : )…moreI never said what it was. I just left it up to everyone's imagination. : )(less)
Sarah I went back and looked in “The Bookish Life of Nina Hill” right after finishing “The Garden of Small Beginnings” and it really must be the same charac…moreI went back and looked in “The Bookish Life of Nina Hill” right after finishing “The Garden of Small Beginnings” and it really must be the same characters! “Bookish Life” is set shortly after (Clare is still 6), and also includes Rachel and several other characters with updates.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Elyse  Walters
May 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
I thought this book was ghastly awful!!! Honestly... I thought I was going to die if I kept reading .....
For the little longest time I tried to be 'good'... 'kind' ....a compassionate reader. After awhile -- I was either rolling my eyes --or laughing uncontrollably, "thinking how does anyone read this book with a straight face? THIS BOOK IS NOT A GOOD FIT FOR ME IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM. I turned into the wicked witch from the east....or is it the north?
WICKED FOR SURE! My inner - mean voice took on
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman is a 2017 Berkley publication.

I admit I started reading this book with a certain mindset. I was thinking contemporary fiction, maybe some romance, maybe not, with 'mature' adult characters, and I was right about that much, but whatever else I might have been thinking, was totally blown out of the water after reading the first chapter.

The story deals with some heavy topics, but it was absolutely hysterical. I laughed all the way through it, but it w
Always Pouting
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Lilian is a single mother of two and an illustrator at Poplar Press. After Dan, her husband, died in a car accident Lilian had a breakdown and eventually had to be hospitalized. Through out her sister Rachel stepped in and helped until Lilian was able to start taking care of herself and her two girls again. Three years later and Lilian is coping much better and trying to learn to go on without Dan when her company signs her up for gardening lessons. The lessons come in conjunction to an assignme ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Widowhood was thrust upon Lili Girvan in the blink of an eye when husband Dan died in an auto accident. Lili lost her grip on life and was hospitalized for several months. Rachel, her younger sister, was able to step in and has continued to encourage and help Lili with the challenges of raising Annabel, age seven and Claire, age five. Lili still feels lost and misses everything about Dan including his wet towels left on the bed. Her life, however, has become routine and predictable.

Poplar Press,
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
Lilian Girvan is thirty-nine and has been widowed for four years with two young girls. She has a strong bond with her unmarried sister Rachel who provided care and support for her children while she was recovering from a breakdown. Her life starts trending in a positive direction and she continues her career as an illustrator.

Lilian struggles with romance while focusing on providing a stable home for her children. She has not been open to dating because of her grief over losing her deceased hus
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Oh Abbi Waxman . . . .

I was lucky enough to stumble upon this author due to my addiction to covers featuring houses via the aptly named Other People’s Houses. (A rare occurrence where my brain didn’t fail me after being denied an ARC over at NetGalley and I promptly begged the library to obtain a copy for me.) I was double lucky to score a paper advance of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, a story that is currently making the rounds
Karen White
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I simply adored this book from the first sentence. I honestly can't say I've ever read a book where I laughed hysterically and cried all on the same page. Lovely, insightful writing and an unforgettable story and characters. Highly recommend. ...more
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-library, 2020
I read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill earlier this year, and was completely charmed by the main character, and by the author’s light-hearted rom-com style. It didn’t take long for me to reach back for The Garden of Small Beginnings, Ms. Waxman’s debut novel.

I can’t help but review this book in comparison to Ms. Waxman’s latest novel, which may not be fair, but it is the reading order I suspect most readers will have. Lilian Girvan has a similar narrative voice to Nina Hill, but her life took a v
Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
It isn't often anymore that I connect so well with the characters of a story that they truly not only seem like friends and family, but that I'm so sad when it is over because it means that I will never see them again. It is also rare that I stay up late into the night reading because I love the story and characters so much and yet, Abbi Waxman managed to do both of those things for me with her debut novel The Garden of Small Beginnings.

I was asked to read this and turned it down because it sou
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
An easy, feel good read about overcoming loss, accepting change and the power of community to help us heal. I liked the story, the characters were believable in all their messy glory and I loved the humor and the interspersed gardening tips that were ridiculously clever. Was it a bit predictable? Yes and I may not remember it in six months, but I enjoyed it immensely in the here and now.
Bam cooks the books ;-)
*3.5 stars rounded up. This is the pick for my library's Reader's Roundtable group read for January, 2019, to kick off the new year and is Waxman's debut novel. I have previously read her second novel, Other People's Houses, and enjoyed that one, and looked forward to reading this story with great anticipation.

Through the first thirty pages or so, I have to admit I was thinking, Boy, she is trying way too hard to be funny! But Waxman finally settles into her story, which is about a young widow w
Aj the Ravenous Reader
First page of the Prologue and already full of heart,  honesty, and humor. I could already tell that I'm going to love it and I was right. It was absolutely adorable.

Lili is navigating a world  where her husband has been dead for three years and although she seems to downplay her grief practically for the sake of her two adorable little girls, Annabel and Clare, it's very obvious how hurt she still is to have lost her soulmate so soon. Her grief is palpable and her admissions about her depressi
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommend
What an enjoyable book! You wouldn’t think that a book about a young widow still trying to cope with her loss after 3 years would be a fun read, but this one is. There are poignant, heartbreaking moments to be sure, but there is so much humor, sarcasm and snark to make up for any sadness in the story.

Lili and her sister Rachel are as different as two people can be, but they are fiercely loyal and supportive of each other. When Lili’s husband died in a car crash, Rachel stepped out of her own li
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this warm story of a young widow coming to terms with the concept of moving on, living her life and being truly happy again. I felt her pain and fear, her love for her lost husband, her desire to not forget him.
This story is told with warm & loving humor and looks at many issues: letting go, learning to live & be happy, first appearances, trusting oneself, accepting others into one's life and much more.
It's a warm & loving story. I was afraid it would be a romance but it's not
Theresa Alan
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this hilariously funny book.

When the publishing house 34-year-old Lillian works for wants her to illustrate a book on gardening, they send her to a course on how to garden. Her sister, Rachel, and her two daughters join her. There, they meet a good-looking teacher named Edward and a cast of characters that defy initial stereotypes.

I loved the relationship between Lillian and Rachel. They fight occasionally, but mostly they support each other in a way that’s nice to see. The seve
4.5 stars.
Witty and insightful. Wonderful group of characters. Two sisters, well two sets of sisters who made me laugh and at times sad. A group of people who come together around a gardening project and form a what I think will be lasting friendships. Tons of good hints about gardening.
I did laugh... and roll my eyes at the “gardening tips”, which were a tad precious, accepted that I would utterly suspend reality to believe that tomatoes would give fully ripened fruit in six weeks, and strawberries from new plants the same - but, the whimsy was gentle and there were some truly comedic moments. Light froth, good enough for its purpose. Not excellent, but ok to kick back with in between more serious stuff.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
After getting a recommendation from Heidi, our long time bloggy friend from Rainy Day Ramblings, I knew I had to pick up The Garden of Small Beginnings. I’m so happy I did because it was charming, fun, and full of laugh-out-loud humor!

Lilian lost her husband in a tragic accident four years ago, and hasn’t really moved on. Not that she’s in a deep depression, this story is far from depressing, but she hasn’t really begun living life for herself since. Her world is about her two girls, seven-year-
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: chic-lit
“The Garden of Small Beginnings” is chick-lit at it’s greatest. All the essential elements are there: damsel in distress who learns of her inner strength; narcissist mother; situation for personal growth; supportive friends; cute potential boyfriend. This chick-lit story is also about grief from losing a loved-one and persevering through the pain.

The story is told through protagonist Lil’s eyes. She’s a widow, mother of two young girls, who is a textbook illustrator. Sadly, Lillian saw her husba
Christy LoveOfBooks

This book deserves a lot of hype!

On the surface, it seems like it would be depressing. Lilian is a widow with two young daughters. She suffered a major breakdown after her husband died and still struggles with it three years later. And she's just been laid off. Total country song material, right? Wrong. When she's commissioned to illustrate a gardening guide, she also gets roped into taking a gardening class where she learns about new beginnings.

Oh, how I adore this book. Adoooore! It's without
When I got married, I thought a lot about the fact that sooner or later, one of us would die. And I don’t think that’s morbid: I think it's important to remember such a simple fact when you make that kind of commitment, so that we enjoy every moment we have together as much as we can, since inevitably, one of us eventually won’t be there. I know that if Jason goes first, I will be utterly heartbroken and devastated, but I do hope I manage to keep my dry wit and sarcasm as well as Lili does – if ...more
This story has many themes I typically love, such as gardening and sisters and friendships and difficult mother-daughter relationships. Unfortunately, I didn't like how any of those were handled and wound up feeling peevish as I listened my way through Lili's trials and tribulations.
It also has a lot I don't enjoy, like romance and falling in love and misinformation about how plants work plus an added element of careless thoughtlessness. Those only served to inflame my annoyance.

Story: Lili’s hu
Louise Miller
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Abbi Waxman has done the impossible--she has written book about grief that is tender and true, deeply human, and laugh-out-loud funny. I absolutely loved this book, and I am going to miss the characters deeply. I can't wait for this to be on the book store shelves (it comes out it May 17) so I can push it on everyone I know who has experienced love and loss--that is to say everyone I know. ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book charming. It even had me laughing out loud in some places. I like quick easy reads, that can successfully take a non serious look at serious topics. There are some real issues in this, but I liked the author's approach to them. It wasn't a book about them but about the characters, and I liked that the author focused on that.

I enjoyed the relationships in this and there were many. They were well done and the characters were easy to like.

My only real problem was with the dialog
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
ARC received courtesy of First Reads Giveaway

This is the BEST book I've read this year! Abbi Waxman has written the most realistic and funny novel that will stick with you long after you've read the final page.

Lillian's husband was killed in a horrific car crash that she witnessed. After his death, she lost it and was hospitalized until she could be brought back to center. She has two girls and a huge support system, but after four years, she's just stuck in her grief. She is a tex
Jonathan K
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heart warming, funny and filled with joy

Abbi has a talent for telling family stories that all can relate with, even if they're childless. In this book the recently widowed mother of two young girls comes to grips with grief while her children embrace gardening. A talented illustrator, sister and taxi driver for the kids, Lillian shows up like Superman while battling her inner demons. Well paced, with spats of humor it's difficult not to enjoy her writing. The publisher includes the first chapte
Lily (Night Owl Book Cafe)
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
I really needed something different and fun in my reading life, so when dear Heidi over at Rainy Day Ramblings personally recommended this book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Guys, I cannot express how much I adored this book. It did exactly what I need it to do. It pulled me out of my reading slump and offered me a book with so much fun, laughter and a lot of heart.

Lilian Girvan is a widow. Her husband died a couple of years ago in a car collision right outside of their house and left Lilia
Chris  C - A Midlife Wife
What an amazing read! Gosh I love this book! Copy received for review consideration
The author tells a story that is deeply touching as it unfolds. The connection to your sibling who saves you time and again. The amusement and deep insight of your children. The daily stress life brings you. The snippets of tragedy that makes you gasp for breath.

But then life gives you something special. A connection to others. New friendships that lets you relax and enjoy. The beg
Kate Olson
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Something about this book just hit me so hard, and I feel deeply in love with it after only a few pages. Maybe it was the raw and unflinching grief, maybe it was the laugh-out-loud humor, maybe it was the completely frank and unfiltered take on motherhood, maybe it was the hilarious gardening notes at the beginning of every section (you MUST actually read these - so much humor hidden in there!)......whether it was one of these or all of these that made me love it, I just did. I had no idea of wh ...more
Book Riot Community
Unreliable narrators aren’t always murderers or train passengers. In fact, given that no one is entirely self-aware, any well-written character should have a skewed perspective of her own life and self, even if a book is a comedy about family life and gardening. Lilian Girvan, the central character of The Garden of Small Beginnings, is an illustrator, a mother, a sister, a budding gardener, and a widow, and her perspective on how she’s doing with each role doesn’t always match up with what reade ...more
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Hi there. I'm a chocolate loving, dog loving writer living in Los Angeles. I sit down if I can, and lie down whenever possible. If you enjoy my book and would like a personalized, signed bookplate to go in it, email me your name and address and I'll send you one! ...more

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