I’ve yet to read a Jamie Langston Turner novel that I didn’t like. Some Wildflower in My Heart, though, just hit the spot. I referred to it in this post as a “comfort read,” which might be a little strange, given some of the subject matter in the book. However, something about Turner’s wonderful way with words and the creation of a strong and interesting narrator in Margaret Tuttle just did it for me. I really can’t say enough how much I loved this book. (Have I gushed enough yet?) I’m not sure where this one comes in Turner’s titles in terms of order of publication, but I feel like this one is the one in which she really discovered the voice she was looking for for her narrator.
A Garden to Keep is the story of Margaret Bryce Tuttle, the supervisor of the elementary school lunchroom in Derby, South Carolina. However, this job stereotypically belies who she really is–an intellectual with little formal schooling; a woman whose marriage of convenience with her loving but patient husband is something that has never even given her pause (before now); but mostly, a bitter woman who holds everyone–everyone–at arm’s length and has no interest in living her life differently. All this begins to change when Birdie Freeman comes to work in her cafeteria. Birdie is a small, homely woman with a huge heart. Slowly, through small acts of kindness and generosity, Birdie begins to chisel away at Margaret’s facade. Margaret’s past is revealed through the course of the story, and what a wretched past it is. Through Birdie, though, Margaret finally comes to understand that while pain and suffering are inevitable, it is possible to turn even the worst suffering around for some good.
I think the thing I liked most about this book is that it tied up some loose ends for me. The first book I read by Turner was A Garden to Keep (my thoughts here), and in this book, an older Margaret Tuttle plays a huge part in the transformation of the main character. Much was alluded to in that novel about Margaret’s life, and my curiosity was piqued, way back then. I’m so glad I finally got to read this rich, rich story.
If my gushing isn’t enough (or if it hasn’t driven you away 😉 ), here are a few random quotes from Some Wildflower in My Heart to whet your appetite:
An odd assortment we were in our white uniforms that day, seated around Birdie’s tea cart in her living room, partaking of her cream wafers, praline candy, and jam cake, all of us but Birdie feeling removed from our element while she labored with felicity toward her self-appointed goal, not only of drawing us one by one to her heart but also of fusing the four of us into a unit, like the leaves of a lucky clover. (171)
It was on the seventeenth day of December, a Saturday, that I ceased looking for Birdie’s faults, knowing that even if, or rather when, they appeared, they would be of no consequence. In short, this is the day that I realized she was truly my friend–not only that she wanted to be my friend but that I likewise wanted to be hers. At the age of fifty, I at last acquired a friend. (262)
I have the rose trillium yet today, pressed between sheets of waxed paper in my dictionary, between pages 534 and 535, on which are printed the words beginning with frequent and ending with frolic. Between those guide words lies the word friend. (339)
This is not your typical Christian fiction fare, at least to me.
For more on Jamie Langston Turner’s works here at Hope Is the Word: