Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Dominated by women (all named for flowers), along with their spouses, lovers, and offspring, this new work from Thomas (The End of Mr. Y) places the greater Gardener family on course for a chaotic contemporary adventure following the death of matriarch Oleander. The search for, or lurch toward, enlightenment is central to a narrative set largely in contemporary London and is critically important to those family members whose parents disappeared after seeking mysterious seed pods that promise a shortcut to spiritual illumination or to death. The entangled narratives of so many reveal serious character flaws (e.g., Byrony's secret drinking and binge shopping, Fleur's incestuous feelings, and Charlie's sexual aggression). Their flaws make them believable and certainly entertaining. VERDICT Thomas succeeds in creating a funny yet poignant tale that is as much about yearning for connection as it is about seeking enlightenment. Kudos to her for penning a splendid novel that blends botany, philosophy, and mystery.-Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Botany and human sexuality regularly intersect, stimulating the characters and the reader alike in Thomas's (PopCo) newest. The story opens with a long and multilayered chapter set at the funeral of elderly Oleander Gardener, whose country estate in England, Namaste House, includes a large orangery. The childless Oleander has several nieces and nephews-Fleur, Clematis, Charles, Lavender, Plum, and Bryony-who catch up, share thoughts on the future, and argue at the funeral. Questions of inheritance and a mysterious seed pod that each of her heirs receives constitute the framework of a tenuous plot, but these are primarily MacGuffins. Fueled by intellectual curiosity and joie de vivre (as much Thomas's as her characters'), the story fans out to the heirs, primarily Fleur and Bryony. Each views the world through a naturalist lens that echoes the deceased Oleander. Botanist Fleur has a discussion with a fellow passenger on an airplane, the topic of which veers from a Hebridean spotted orchid to Rihanna and Kate Moss. And Bryony, whose daughter, Holly, is experiencing the daily changes of puberty with wonder, sees human sexual parts nearly everywhere in plants. Ebullient prose, engaging characters, lively imagination, illuminating details-Thomas is an original, and her novel is consistently entertaining. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
When Great-Aunt Oleander dies, she leaves her heirs mysterious seedpods purported to bring enlightenment if ingested, but with a possible chaser of death. Far from thrilled, none of them seem likely to take that gamble. Bryony blames the seeds for the loss of her parents and her struggle with various addictions. Her cousin Clem is too busy as a successful, if unhappy, nature documentarian, and Clem's brother, Charlie, is too obsessed with finding a woman to replace the one that got away. And Fleur is now responsible for Namaste House, Oleander's retreat for strung-out celebrities and collection point for orphans of many types. Wrapped up in their own dramas, the heirs seem to all but forget about the seeds, but both tragedy and enlightenment come in many forms to those who invite either. Acclaimed British writer Thomas (Bright Young Things, 2013) uses a large cast of dysfunctional characters to explore concepts of connectedness and responsibility. With equal parts family saga, intriguing mystery, and existential foray, this magical tale of love and illumination will keep readers on their toes.--Ophoff, Cortney Copyright 2016 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
A gnarly family drama from the acclaimed author of Our Tragic Universe (2010) and The End of Mr. Y (2006). It's probably best to start by explaining who will hate this book. Readers who require likable protagonists will hate this book; the members of the Gardener family and its satellites are, almost without exception, a catalog of human weakness and vice. Readers who are unsettled by formal experiment will hate this; Thomas uses a cacophony of voices, moves around in time, and frequently interrupts the narrative with thought experiments. And readers who shy away from profanity and perversity will hate this book; freewheeling British usage of language that is intensely objectionable to American ears just compounds the problem. So, the colonial audience for this book is, perhaps, narrow. But, O! How that audience will love it! Thomas' latest is a multigenerational saga, but it's also an extended meditation on the Buddhist concept of attachment. And it's a hyperbolic, raunchy, hilarious immersion in the connected lives of some intensely imperfect people. The catalyst for the story is the death of Oleander Gardener, the guiding spirit of both her botanist family and a spiritual retreat that houses various refugees, weirdos, and the occasional celebrity. Oleander's bequests include her home, a hunting lodge in the Outer Hebrides, and the seedpods of a plant that several members of her family died trying to find. Oleander is dead, but her presence looms, and the people she's left behind are compelled to figure out what they're going to do with their complicated inheritancea question that expands beyond Oleander's material gifts and reaches into the Gardener family's past. Thomas is a literary star in the United Kingdom. She should be in the United States, too. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.