The Floating Garden was a last minute find to replace my original Read Harder 2017 Task 21, book published by a micropress. I just wasn’t into the book I had originally chosen and life is too short to read books you’re not excited about, right?
Looking for a late replacement, I just went over to Goodreads and just searched for something that was in the group discussions that I could get my hands on. I know, it’s not the best use of the task and probably not entirely in it’s spirit, but this has been the hardest task for me between the two years I’ve been doing this challenge. That said, I didn’t even look at the full description of the book and dove right in, hoping it would be more interesting than it’s predecessor. Fortunately, it was.
I had neglected to read the description before starting the book itself and it took me a minute to figure the era and place and then I had to go back and figure out what the hell a theosophist was. I had no idea that was a thing. The story itself follows two point of view characters and some flashbacks to the mysterious past of one of them. I really enjoyed the way it all worked together. On the one hand, it’s a rather beautiful story amid the natural decay of a part of town and the progress that displaces the people in those community, and on the other hand, it’s a story about setting yourself free and working to stay that way.
I was intrigued to find how Rennie and Ellis’s lives would eventually intersect and the way they would effect each other. I wasn’t so sure how it was going to go until the very end with a little surprise. It didn’t quite twist the ending but eased it, if that makes any sense. Ellis’s past haunted her and it was the little hints toward it that initially drew me into the story. I was glad when we got to full on flashbacks to what it was that was bothering her so much. It was sad and sweet and by the time I got to the full extent of it, it was also quite nostalgic even though I’d never known any of those people or been to Australia or even seen pictures of Milson’s Point or the Harbour Bridge.
For Rennie the problem was more a matter of present than past, and her way of dealing with it was understandable. It sounds so easy to do what she did, but I know from plenty of other reading that it’s not only hard but incredibly frightening. I can’t imagine striking out on my own that way, which is part of why I really understood the need for that little moment, the little sign. I loved the way she ended up where she did, all the little unnerving steps that were much braver than they sound and the shedding of an unwanted life.
The magical thing about it all is that this is a story about running away and about finding yourself much later in life than most of these stories usually take place. Rennie and Ellis are not young women but needing to be in the right place for you isn’t something that goes away after your twenties. Sometimes where we found at one age isn’t where we need to be or even can be at another. It’s always refreshing to read stories about older women who are trapped for one reason or another by the choices of their youth breaking free and finding themselves. It shows that its never too late and that one bad choice doesn’t have to define who you are forever. I also really loved that children had nothing at all to do with these women feeling trapped by their circumstances, as neither had any.
I ended up reading this book on Scribd, but if you’d like to find it elsewhere, click here to be redirected to Goodreads for options.