Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: August 2nd 2012 by Putnam Adult

ISBN: 0399157751 (ISBN13: 9780399157752)
edition language: English
From the publisher:

Thirty-six-year-old Gal Garner lives a regimented life. Her job teaching biology and her struggle with kidney disease keep her toggling between the high school, the hospital, and her home on a strict schedule.
Only at home, in her garden, does Gal come alive. It's here that she experiments with Hulthemia roses, painstakingly cross-pollinating various specimens in the hopes of creating a brand-new variation of spectacular beauty. But even her passion has a highly structured goal: Gal wants to win Queen of Show in a major competition and bring that rose to market.
Then one afternoon Gal's teenaged niece Riley, the daughter of her estranged sister, arrives. Unannounced. Neither one of them will ever be the same.

Filled with gorgeous details of the art of rose breeding, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns is a testament to the redemptive power of love.

My thoughts:  First, let me say I loved Dilloway's How to be an American Housewife.  It was one of last year's few 5* reads so I was really looking forward to Dilloway's latest. The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns started out slowly for me with what felt like too much info on kidney disease, dialysis and breeding roses but then it seems like something magical happened and I  really got into the storyline.

Gal, who I didn't like very much at first, but I did feel like I understood her, became much more likeable once I saw through her prickly exterior to her vulnerability underneath.Gal's life is dictated by her kidney disease and her dialysis schedule. Every other night she has to sleep in the hospital while having dialysis. Even her diet is ruled by her kidneys. Being a biology teacher in a private school is her livelihood but breeding roses is her passion. It's the one way she has some control over things in her life.

"Difficult and obstinate. Thriving under a set of specific and limited conditions. That pretty much describes me. Maybe that's why I like roses so much."

Being somewhat of a loner is one of her traits along with liking things her way. She's not big into compromise or even seeing the other side of things until the day her niece, Riley, shows up at school.
Maybe Gal's no-nonsense approach to life will be just what Riley, who is used to doing just as she wants, needs.

It figures, Gal thinks, that her sister Becky would just send her kid to stay with Gal without even asking her if it were okay. Becky, of whom, Gal does not approve has always been the irresponsible one, the impulsive one, not much of a mother, a drinker and a drug user. None of these things meet with Gal's liking at all. But that's all about to change after this one summer with Riley's unexpected and at first a little unwelcomed stay with her aunt.

 Dilloway brings her characters to life while exploring family dynamics, the power of forgiveness, self esteem, understanding, hope and love. I grew very fond of all these characters including Becky. I began to wonder if Becky acted out of insecurity unsure of her parents love, jealousy of all the attention Gal received or just plain mischievousness. Even the rose breeding parts became interesting. 4****

This would make a wonderful book club selection as I think there are many family issues that could be discussed.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Putnam/LT  in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. I enjoyed How To Be an American Housewife so I had my eye on this book too. I am glad to hear you enjoyed it even though it started out slowly.

  2. I loved How to Be an American Housewife, too, so I've been curious about this one. Glad to hear it's good despite the slow start.

  3. I love it when a book all of a sudden takes off and becomes enthralling. I've been meaning to read the American Housewife so I will have to add both of these books to MUST read list!!

  4. This does sound like it would be an interesting read for me, and I like that the whole picture is divided in to sharp lines between the roses, the disease, and the family section. I might try to get this one on audio if I can. Great review today! I really enjoyed reading your perspective.

  5. this books sounds very good, and I do love roses.

  6. I also loved American Housewife so I know I'm going to have to read this one too. I've noticed this book on a couple of blogs recently but I can't believe that I didn't realize that Dilloway is the author! Thanks for the review...

  7. Several of the member of my book club read and loved How to be an American Housewife and have been curious about this book. I'll direct them to your review.

  8. Oh Kaye, yours is the first review I've read so excited you enjoyed it. I do plan to read it. I didn't connect Dilloway to her earlier book for some reason?

    1. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this one, Diane.

  9. I've had the audio version of How To be an American Housewife on my on my wish list for ages! Sounds like this one belongs there, too. Thanks for the review.

  10. So wonderful that you have time to read. I wish I had more to do that. Always great to hear about a good book. Thanks for stopping by. Jane

  11. This sounds like a terrific character drive novel. i also like the writing style based on the roses quote. Difficult and obstinate sounds like it could describe a lot of people/things!

  12. I like all of the topics in this book as well as the rather flawed and dysfunctional Gal so I'm excited you liked this book.

    Love your review and really appreciate your candid assessment of this book!


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