Shelby Hearon has been widely praised for the insight, wit, and subtlety with which her novels limn the complexities of marriage and family ("What Jane Austen is to courtship, Shelby Hearon is to marriage" --New York Newsday), and the ways in which place can profoundly affect us all. Now, with Ella in Bloom, Hearon gives us her sharpest, funniest, most telling novel yet.
It is the story of Ella, who has always lived in the shadow of her "perfect" older sister. A gutsy single parent eking out a living for herself and her intrepid teenage daughter Birdie, Ella invents a genteel life, writing to her mother in drought-baked Texas about her heirloom roses, her linen dresses, and other amenities of a respectable life in Old Metairie, Louisiana. Little does her mother know about the run-down, scruffy house Ella really lives in, or that she makes ends meet by watering rich people's houseplants when they flee the coastal summer heat.
But when Ella's beautiful sister Terrell, on the way to meet her lover, is suddenly killed in a chartered plane crash, old family patterns are shattered. And Ella, confronting the reality of her life (and of the man she had relegated to the past) comes, finally and fully, into bloom.
Wise, wicked, and moving, in Shelby Hearon's hands this portrait of a woman--a woman we all know--is guaranteed to give extraordinary pleasure.
I made a rose garden for my mother.
Redolent old roses blooming against a weathered low brick wall. (Perhaps I'd say the bricks were from a once-fine country home, now crumbling against crape myrtle, or perhaps I'd say from some eighteenth-century church, fallen into disuse in an unsavory area in the heart of the parish.) Such care I took throughout that spring and early summer, steeping myself in the history of Chinas, Teas, Albas, Gallicas, Bourbons, Noisettes. Reading about botanists who brought back cuttings from China, prizewinning rosarians who could trace the ancestry of their present best rose back to the jardins of the Empress Josephine. I learned to decipher the tiny notations in the antique-rose catalogues I kept by my bed, signifying scent, hue, hips, remontancy - a lovely, lingering word meaning to flower again, meaning possessed of a second chance to bloom.
Sometimes, immersed in my invention, my hands would move as if ...
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