Jane Stevenson’s work is about three people in modern day UK, who live normal lives, but one event happens to change the course of their lives.
The first story is about an architect in Scotland who has a mid-life crisis. David’s practice takes a dive when he leaves his family. Only then does he realize how much of his work came because of his wife’s connections to the community.
He and the new wife try to rehab an old farmhouse. It’s like an HGTV remodeling program gone bad. He tries to make the least expensive changes look like gold. And it almost works.
The adventure of remodeling is hilarious! Plus, Stevenson’s Scotland such a village, that David’s ex-wife probably hears of the fiasco and laughs a bit.
The second story is about Wenda, who works part-time at a drug store. She takes care of her husband, Derek, an engineer and keeps a perfect house.
However, she discovers that she has a gift to help people and wants to start a business. Her co-worker, who is not getting any intellectual stimulation from the drug store job either, helps Wenda with marketing and business plans.
Despite the lack of support from her husband and her family, Wenda goes on with her plans to start the business.
This story is interesting, because it shows that the English can be entrepreneurs and the process that is needed to start a business.
The last story, Garden Guerillas, is my favorite. Alice, a widow who lives in the Kew Gardens section of London, is being encouraged by her son and daughter-in-law to move to an old folk’s home. Alice is upset by her son’s behavior and her daughter-in-law’s greed (all she talks about is how expensive it will be to remodel Alice’s home) that she plans revenge on them.
She starts to plan a garden made of innocuous-looking plants that could ruin the home’s foundation and invade neighbors’ gardens. The damage won’t be noticed until it’s too late.
Once she receives the order, Alice knew that she “had committed myself to leaving, and I also had declared war on Karen, even if nobody but me actually knew it, or ever would. Traditional notions of vengeance always involve an actual moment when the victim suddenly comprehends what has happened to them..but I had spent my life among plants, and I had come to understand something of their methods which are quiet, subtle, and infinitely tenacious.”
She meets a college friend, who didn’t know her in her wife and mother phase of life, and he encourages her in her final decision to buy a new home. ”If I dropped dead tomorrow, you would still have reasons to be here…Face it, darling. Life is uncertain. That’s why it’s important to have fun.” Wise advice from Martin!
I loved the description of Alice’s first drive to northern England. It’s so true to life; when I was up there last spring, I missed one train and had to travel part of the way (from Carlisle to Preston) via bus, and I saw the same things that Alice saw. However, Alice thought that the freeways in Manchester and Birmingham were terrifying; she needs to come to Houston during rush hour and try to drive then!
All the stories were about ordinary people moving toward another phase in their lives. The process was difficult but worthwhile. And, it’s good to read that not everyone who makes a decision can execute it all at once.