Things That Grow by Meredith Goldstein – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

After her grandmother dies, a girl travels to different gardens to scatter her ashes, learning about life, love, and how to laugh again along the way. From Love Letters advice columnist and podcast host Meredith Goldstein, this emotionally resonant novel is perfect for fans of Robin Benway and Jenna Evans Welch.

When Lori’s Dorothy Parker–loving grandmother dies, Lori’s world is turned upside down. Grandma Sheryl was everything to Lori—and not just because Sheryl raised Lori when Lori’s mom got a job out of town. Now Lori’s mom is insisting on moving her away from her beloved Boston right before senior year. Desperate to stay for as long as possible, Lori insists on honouring her grandmother’s last request before she moves: to scatter Sheryl’s ashes near things that grow.

Along with her uncle Seth and Chris, best friend and love-of-her-life crush, Lori sets off on a road trip to visit her grandmother’s favourite gardens. Dodging forest bathers, scandalised volunteers, and angry homeowners, they come to terms with the shape of life after Grandma Sheryl. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but Lori might just find a way to move forward surrounded by the people she loves.

My Review

First up I’m in love with the cover of this book; it’s just so pretty and eye catching. Sadly however I didn’t have the same love for the story.

The book follows the story of Lori in the days after her beloved grandmother’s sudden death and how she tries to make sense of her forever changed life. Lori had been living with her grandmother and it is now expected that she will move to a new town where her flighty mother is living with her latest boyfriend. This means Lori will have to leave behind the best friend she’s ever known, Chris …who also happens to be the boy she is in love with!

But before the big move Lori and her family are tasked with scattering her grandmother’s ashes, as per her final request, near things that grow.

This begins a week of road trips to various beautiful gardens during which Lori tries to figure out what her next step in life will be.

And I really, really liked this concept. Grief is such a powerful emotion and losing someone that we love is such an earth shattering experience that I thought this book would be filled with all of the feels … but this book just lacked any true heart for me. I found the characters to be incredibly flat. Pastiches more than authentic.

One of the driving plot lines in this book was meant to be Lori figuring out the Chris “situation”. Chris is her best friend who she’s allegedly in love with… but I never felt any connection nor chemistry between the two. Sure Chris was perfectly nice. A good friend. But he had zero personality. It was nigh on impossible to believe that Lori carried this proverbial torch for him because not only was he lacking in dimension as a character but Lori also never came alive for me off the page. They stayed in their one dimensional form akin to flat pack furniture; looks nice in the picture on the box but is redundant unless assembled. This was very much a case of being told as a reader that Lori loved Chris rather than ever truly being shown her feelings.

That issue with characters lacking dimension also continued with all of the other main players in the novel I felt. To me they were stereotypes e.g. flighty but misunderstood mother, fun but ultimately immature and unreliable uncle etc. etc.

I also felt that the book tried too hard to be funny in places. If you’ve ever experienced a personal loss yourself you will know that the grieving process can bring up a lot of irreverent humour as a coping mechanism. It’s the ‘if I don’t laugh I’ll cry’ phenomenon. For the most part the book got this tone spot on but I did feel it overstepped its mark when the characters were discussing the crucifix in the opening pages; to me it felt like the author went in for too much shock factor rather than irreverential hilarity.

I would also like to note that in the book there is a running joke that refers to the cremated ashes of Lori’s grandmother as craisins (a play on the word cremains). I liked the use of humour in this instance as it sought to make the experience of the practicalities of cremation less disconcerting and intimidating but it might possibly be upsetting to a reader who has recently had to deal with the cremation process after a bereavement so please read with care.

Overall the lack of depth to all of the main characters meant that I found this story to be quite boring. I struggled to maintain any interest in the plot and ultimately began to feel like I was reading in a perfunctory manner just so I could get to the end.

Sadly not for me.

*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*

Publishing 9th March 2021, HMH Books for Young Readers

4 thoughts on “Things That Grow by Meredith Goldstein – eARC Book Review

  1. It is such a shame that the characters didn’t have enough depth to them as the premise of this book sounds really promising. I’m sorry that it didn’t meet your expectations although it sounds like there were some positives!


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