First Gardner was an amazing book. Denise Hildreth Jones descriptions made me feel like I was at the Governor’s mansion in Tennessee. The story of Governor Gray London and his wife, Mackenzie, is one of heartbreak and hope. Jones tells a tell that makes your relate to the characters, care about them and root for them; even when bad choices are being made. And the surprise ending was great, full of unexpected grace.
Not even a 1 star rating, I would rate as -5 if allowed. It was awful. I would NOT recommend this book. Don't waste your time. There is never an excuse for profanity.
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Review 3 for The First Gardener - eBook
Date:September 24, 2012
Location:Nova Scotia, Canada
A beautifully written, sweet, yet sad story. Having dealt with depression after losing a dear friend, this story certainly hit close to home. It was a book that I could not put down, and read it with tears, and also sometimes a chuckle. An excellent read, that I throughly enjoyed.
I only decided to add my voice after reading a review that said this story was, "needlessly sad". Life, from our temporal perspective is usually, if not always, "needlessly sad". It is how we, through God's power, provision, and presence address life's trials that grants us the privilege of positively impacting others; which is exactly what the First Gardner does. That is why I found the tragedies uplifting - for those involved lumbered through them; some with God, some without, some by the strength of others' faith. This story is authentic and blessed me.
"The First Gardener," written by Denise Hildreth Jones is one of the most emotional, heart-wrenching novels I have read, but it is also one you do not want to miss out on!
Gary and Mackenzie are the first family of Tennesee and are preparing for their only child to begin school and then tradegy strikes and it is more than Mackenzie can handle. Seeking strength from God and others around her is the only way that she is going to make it through this time. However, help comes from unexpected people in her midst. Jeremiah is the gardener and has been at the Govenor's mansion for a long time, yet he is drawn to this family during their time of personal need and he has more gifts than just tending the mansion gardens.
This is such a well-written book and one that will have you completely engrossed in the story and the characters' lives. The characters are well-developed and come alive on the pages. I found myself crying with Mackenzie and laughing along side Eugenia and wishing I had a gardener to work along beside like Jeremiah not only for his landscaping expertise, but his wisdom for the heart as well. This is a very emotional read and one that will not soon be forgotten.
When I saw the title The First Gardener, My mind first went to the thought that it would be about Adam or perhaps God as the ultimate First Gardener. I had no idea what it would be about, but it stands to reason that if the spouse of the head of state is The First Wife, then the one who takes care of the grounds must be the First Gardener. This is a novel of heart ache and turmoil but also of forgiveness. Who has not lived in the world of “what if” or “if only i” or even blaming our selves? This is the world Mackenzie, the wife of the Governor of Tennessee lives in. It is a hard life, one that takes its tole on the health and welfare of the human body. It causes us to look at life and those around us through skewed eyes. Jeremiah, the First Gardner plays the capacity of adviser as well as the gardener in this heart rending, thought provoking novel. Although I had my suspicions, what the actual tragedy is, that is mentioned on the back cover of the book, does not come out until near the center of the story. Well told, with compassion and insight, the characters grow in their journey, dealing with the hard issues of life. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to delve into a thought provoking novel.
Gray and Mack are shattered when they lose their only child in a horrific accident. The grief, despair, and anger which follows causes a sharp juxtaposition between their personal life and their public life as the first family of Tennessee. As Mack sinks deeper into depression, Gray throws himself into his work as governor, and their sixteen year marriage slowly begins to crumble. Unable to fight for themselves, the couple finds unlikely allies in the governor's mansion gardener, a young family whose father is in prison for murder, Mack's overbearing mother and her mother's closest friends.
The author does a great job handling the trauma and anguish that comes with losing a child. The emotions portrayed are sincere. The deteriorating relationships are handled with finesse.
My one criticism is that the plot allows a deus ec machina ending. Yes, prayer in the only true power we wield as Christians. But a sudden switch from never-leaving-the-bed-absolute-despair to dressed-hosting-people-in-your-home-up-and-about makes the story veer suddenly in an unpredictable fashion. It comes across like the author was running out of words for the book and needed to wrap the story up quickly. The ending isn't implausible, or even improbable in real life; it just felt to me that - in the context of the story - after slipping into darkness so quickly, the turnaround climb would be far subtler and not quite as sudden. It's a small criticism, and my only one.
Otherwise, this is a well written enjoyable story. Finished it in about 4 hours.
I've been a huge fan of Denise Hildreth Jones' books since she released "Savannah From Savannah". For me, she is the queen of all things Southern. With her newest novel, she's not only added another jewel to that crown...she's written the novel, in my humble opinion, she was born to write.
Jeremiah Williams has been caring for the lawns and garden at the governor's mansion for decades, but he always takes great care to point the way to "The First Gardener" in all he does.
Governor Gray London currently resides in the Tennessee governor's mansion, along with his wife Mackenzie and his daughter Madison. Jeremiah has taken as shine to this precious family, and when they are rocked to their very core by unthinkable tragedy, he's right there with them, holding them up and caring for his precious Mackenzie the only way he knows how.
This story is packed with emotion. The characters literally leap off the pages and into your heart. Maddie is adorable and precocious and filled with energy and life. Her best friend Oliver is a hoot as he attempts to impress the governor's family upon every visit with his high intelligence.
But it's Eugenia's pack of gal pals that take the character cake! Mackenzie's momma is a character unto herself...then there is prim-n-proper Sandra, ruffled up to her wrinkled neck and holding onto Southern manners till they squeal.
Berlyn needs some of Sandra's ruffles to keep her 'girls' covered up...with her loud and proud prints, you can just see her standing before you in all of her flowered glory.
And then we have Dimples...that precious cock-eyed saint who says the strangest things and has to look sideways at you to get a clear glimpse. Though oddest of the four, she is most adorable and ends up spouting wisdom that you will most likely take to your grave.
Oh, if only every state in the union had a family such as this living in the mansion and governing the state! Gray is true to his convictions, yet not at all perfect. Mackenzie is the best volunteer you'll find, yet even she is flawed nearly fatally. And I love, love, LOVE that Denise did not end with a 'convenient' ending, although my hurting heart would have loved one.
No, Denise Hildreth Jones stays true to life in this powerful novel, and I adore her for it. Break out the tissues as you crack the cover...it's going to be an emotional ride! My thanks to Denise and her publisher, Tyndale, for my copy. I'm giving "The First Gardener" the Golden Bookmark for Writing Excellence and Memorable Characters, and voting it "Best Contemporary Fiction of 2011".
Don't miss any of Denise's books, but especially make a point to pick up "The First Gardener".
Jeremiah is the gardener for the governor of Tennessee. He loves this family of Gray, Mackenzie and their daughter Maddie. When tragedy strikes, Jeremiah helps the family and particularly Mackenzie through her grief.
I thought this was a well-written book and rather sad in parts. The overall story was excellent and at the end, the reader is told who Jeremiah the gardener really is.
The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones is about the Governor of Tennessee, Gray London, and his wife, Mackenzie. They have a five year old daughter, Maddie and are trying for another child. They had great trouble conceiving their first child and are still having trouble conceiving. The Governor's mansion has a beautiful garden with Jeremiah as the head gardener.
This will be a complicated review. I really liked the characters. I thought that they were well-developed and I felt connected to them for the most part. However, I really didn't like the circumstances of the story. I don't want to give anything away, but I really didn't like the deaths in the story. They seemed very needless. I like my fantasy to be fantasy. The ending didn't even seem to "wrap up" or conclude everything. Every few chapters, there is a chapter written in Jeremiah's voice with the Southern accent written out. I went back and forth on whether or not I liked it. Overall, I have to say that I didn't like the book. The characters were wonderfully written but the story was needlessly sad in my opinion.
I have never read anything from Denise Hildreth Jones before, but this was a nice introduction. Although the book feels pretty slow-going for the first 100 pages, don't get discouraged and put it down (which I did for a few days). Once you get further into the story, you understand why the author laid such a painstaking foundation. You'll see the gentle hand of God throughout the story, although sometimes that means leading His beloved through the fire of refinement, but always with enough love and grace to sustain. As a child who grew up witnessing my mother's many miscarriages and now facing the same tragedies with my sister, this story of a powerful couple who seemingly have it all, but just want a house full of children to share it with, really it home with me. Although its only one aspect of the story, I loved the realism of that storyline. The fact that the picture-perfect main characters, the Governor and first lady of Tennessee, face problems just like "normal" people made the story more enjoyable and relate-able. I also really enjoyed the setting of Nashville and Franklin, and the fact that the author chose to include many local sights and restaurants that I recognized from my many visits there. If you're looking for a good summer read, with enough heart to moisten your eyes and a generous portion of humor (and just plain "southern-ness") to bring you a smile, this is a book for you.
This book is a slow tender story about how do you even go about healing after your heart is broken into a million pieces, when your worst nightmare becomes reality. I had a hard time reading this one I'll be honest it really crawled under my skin. Maybe it's because I was getting ready to send my sweet little girl off to kindergarten or something but this one really affected me.
The book was good just like her first book I read Hurricanes in Paradise. She has a great way of writing characters that you can really imagine and picture as you read. This one is a book that will stay with you long after you finish the book.
thank you tyndale for allowing me to read this book
Denise Hildreth Jones sets her emotionally powerful contemporary novel, First Gardener in the Tennessee Governor's mansion. Fictional first couple, Gray and Mackenzie London, appear to have it all - a solid, passionate marriage, a successful political life, and possibly a growing family. But all that changes one autumn afternoon, and both spouses are plunged into personal grief so deep that they cannot help each other.
The novel is named First Gardener which has a double meaning. God, as our Creator, is obviously First Gardener, and his presence throughout the book is most evident through the actions of Jeremiah, the Governor's Mansion gardener. Having been at the mansion for over twenty-five years, he has seen the comings and goings of several first families and has liked them all, but never has a family grabbed hold of his heart like the Londons. So when Mackenzie is so enveloped in grief that she cannot even dress or eat, Jeremiah sends one special flower a day as his message of love and support. Jeremiah will tell everyone what blossom he sends is always determined by the "tug" that God places on his heart. The special language of flowers will be part of the complicated healing that is the The First Gardener. Jeremiah is the one character who has a solid, consistant relationship with God throughout the book. He is the one who knows that God has not abandoned the London family, despite the depths of their pain. Just who this humble man is, will remain a partial secret until the end.
Despite knowing this was fiction from the time I read the first book review, I did NOT want Gray and Mackenzie to experience what they did. Knowing a little bit about the plot of the book before I read it, I even considered returning the book to the library without reading it. Why read about someone else's deep grief and pain, even if you know it was created in the author's imagination. But I started the book and my feelings for the couple were even stronger after reading the first chapter. By the time I got to that horrible autumn car ride, I just wanted to scream, "Don't write this! Make it a different story!".
I even wondered why Hildreth Jones would choose such a painful subject, and she must have anticipated that others would have the same question because she addresses this in the book's afterward. Despite being a story of loss ( and more loss), Hildreth Jones was able to infuse some humor, mainly through the antics of the Southern girl friend bunch who tag along wtih Mackenzie's mother, Eugenia. The author also does a solid job of creating a believable political/economic setting for this fictional time in Tennessee, and even weaves in some historical and recent Tennessee events. I recommend this book, but I will warn any mother or grandmother who reads it, you will feel pain along side of Mackenzie and Eugenia, and you will want to put the book down just to take a hug break -- just because you can (and should!)
Not having read any books written by Denise, I had no idea what to expect. I'm not a big fan of contemporary fiction. But being a southerner, the setting and the cover enticed me to choose this book. I am so glad!!!
With a myriad of characters, this is one emotional roller coaster ride. From a child's giddy laughter to a gardner's silent prayers you will be taken to depths and heights you cannot imagine in this jewel of a book!
I must admit when I began reading I realized fairly quickly what was going to happen. That being said, it took awhile for events to unfold and in that time my anger began to build toward Mackenzie. I thought she was too indulgent and that was going to be trouble. Basically, I was blaming her ahead of time for what I knew was going to happen. Yep. It did. Can you tell I'm involved in this book yet?!
What I ignored, in my humanity, is that God is the One in control! There is nothing we can do to thwart God's plan but when tragedy strikes we must not play the blame game (even toward ourselves) because there is no one to blame. God holds all things in His capable hands and He is the One we must lean on in our darkest hour!
Of course Mackenzie's husband, the governor, and her mom play important rolls in the book but Jeremiah, The First Gardner, is the one I fell in love with. He's an old man with a heart of gold! I only wish I had a tenth of the servant heart and green thumb that he does. His quiet strength, unwavering love and wisdom are treasures that make this book shine. Oh, that we all could have a Jeremiah in our lives!
Bravo Denise!!! I highly recommend this book to everyone! It is a must read from this reviewers point of view whether you like contemporary fiction or not. You won't be disappointed. You might laugh, and cry, and get mad but you'll come out the better for it! I fully intend on reading it again. The only thing that could have possibly made it better is if those lovely orchids on the cover had been embossed :)
I want to thank Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with this book for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
This is one of those books that you just can’t put down---it’s almost as if you are living with the characters and feeling their pain and heartbreak. The First Gardener was the first book I’ve read by Denise Hildreth Jones but it won’t be the last! She has the gift of story-telling and really draws the reader in to her story.
I felt so sad for Mackenzie and Gray with their attempts at having a family. To lose a child, especially in such a tragic event, must be the worst event in a mother’s life—it’s understandable the emotions and reactions she goes through. However, she never could deal with her grief. Her family makes attempts to help her but until Mackenzie wants to help herself, nothing will work. As in real life, the first step is to admit you have trouble but Mackenzie doesn’t even get that far. Pushing down the grief isn’t healthy but having been in the same circumstance many years ago, it’s the hardest experience to deal with. However, I was frustrated with how her family coddled her. At some point they should have intervened to help her climb out of her depression---her health, emotional and physical, was in jeopardy. Even if it was just to reignite her faith in God and his healing grace. Yes, it’s hard, but she needed that grace.
Mackenzie’s mom is just a hoot! And her friends even more so. They added that little relief of humor so necessary in a book like this. Even though they were an embarrassment at times, you gotta love their spunk during a time of need. And they truly cared about each other. Any negative comments to each other were always forgiven and dismissed as only good friends can do. Their belief in each other really touched my heart.
But my favorite character was the black gardener, Jeremiah. His deep faith in God and his garden (through God) is unshakeable. I loved how he used to language of flowers to speak to others when words just weren’t enough. He took such good care of his “family” in the governor’s mansion and became a confidant to those currently living there. Jeremiah is one of the people you meet and remember for the rest of your life. He reminded me of a big hug using only his words and flowers.
Even with the sadness and grief, I’d give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. The characters became my friends and I hurt along with them. It’s a story of real life and undeniable faith. I’ll definitely be reading more of Ms Jones’ books in the future!
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of The First Gardener in exchange for my personal, honest review.
I first discovered Denise Hildreth Jones several years ago when I purchased a three-in-one collection of fiction books on a sale rack at a Christian book store. The three books were by three new (ish) authors, and I absolutely loved every one of them. Since then I've read several other novels by Denise and have yet to be disappointed.
The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones is absolutely fantastic! I literally did not put the book down for the two days it took me to read it. Mackenzie and Gray London have a great life. With Gray serving as the governor of Tennessee, Mackenzie devotes her time to their five-year-old daughter and charity work. They are surrounded by wonderful family and friends - Mackenzie's mother, trusted friends, and a wise gardener. When tragedy strikes, they all must pull together in order to survive.
This is one of the most powerful and moving stories I have ever read. The writing style is unique - with the story told alternately by Mackenzie and Jeremiah (the gardener). Such distinct styles but equally well-done. Denise has an incredible ability to make readers feel every emotion of every character. (Grab a box of tissue!) The ups and downs are dramatic . . . but she writes with hope and passion. I think that's what moved me the most - the way the story pointed to hope in Christ more than just a quick happy ending.
I give The First Gardener 5 stars and a permanent place on my bookshelf. You have to read this book!
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House as part of the Summer Reading Program.
Gray London, governor of Tennessee and first lady MacKenzie have a 5 yr old daughter, Maddie, who was born after many years of hoping. Maddie adds life to their home and their hearts.
Jeremiah has been tending the gardens of the govenor's house for 25 years, and 3 years of that for the London family. Jeremiah has a way of growing things and it can be said that a piece of heaven can truly be found in his backyard.
When tragedy strikes the world stops spinning. For this family through life's turmoil and suffering, God brings understanding through the eyes and heart of an old gardener named Jeremiah.
When MacKenzie's mother Eugenia comes to stay at the Governors home she and Jeremiah have to work hard to overcome their differences.
A southern novel of love, loss and understanding that will touch of the heart of the reader. At times quite sad, but at others quite funny, especially with Eugenia and her friends. Excellent character development and although at times the dialect was hard to follow, it is truly a keeper novel to be enjoyed again. The author was able to portray the characters expression of grief in different ways. A true journey of the heart novel that I highly recommend.