Finished March 26
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
This novel follows eleven-year-old Pip as she and her older sister Grace and mother Clare move into a terrace house in a new neighbourhood of London. The family is still in shock after Pip and Grace's dad had a mental health breakdown that resulted in him burning down their home. He is in hospital getting the help he needs, and they must start over with everything gone. Pip is steadfast in missing her father, writing him letters about their lives and new home, and observing the world around her. Grace is angry and scared and at the age where she is looking for her own identity. Clare is fearful of what lies ahead, afraid of what she saw in her husband in his mental breakdown, and worried about managing everything.
Their new home backs onto a large communal park and the girls soon find their way among the other residents. Grace begins hanging out with 5 other kids around the same age: three sisters Catkin, Fern and Willow, another girl Tyler, and a boy Dylan. She hangs out a lot at the sisters' house, liking their parents, Leo and Adele. Adele home schools the girls. As the action begins, the sisters grandfather has come to visit from Africa as his diabetes now requires amputation of one of his feet.
Pip is more of a loner, not feeling comfortable with the other kids, or their parents. Something about Leo doesn't feel right to her. She befriends and older woman with a pet rabbit, and from her learns the history behind the girl memorialized on a nearby bench, Phoebe. Pip is a quiet girl, watchful and sensitive, an important role in this story.
At the annual part party, there is much going on, music, face painting, a barbeque, and as it is also Grace's thirteenth birthday, Clare has let her have more freedom than normal. When the day grows later, Pip searches for her sister, finding her unconscious and bloody in discomforting circumstances. What happened to Grace and who is responsible is the focus of the story.
We see the interaction of both the adults, teens, and preteens here, and how relationships change and develop with the arrival of this new family in the neighbourhood. I liked the way the characters were each so different. None of them perfect.