Cover image for The garden angel
The garden angel
Friddle, Mindy.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
viii, 290 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
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Set in a Southern, city-swallowed town, "The Garden Angel" tells the story of two women and their unlikey friendship. Cutter Johanson is plucky and eccentric, nostalgic about her family's once glorious past. She has her hands full warding off potential buyers from the dilapidated homestead she is determined to keep. Though the neighborhood has changed, even grown shabby, Father Bob's Home for Retarded Men across the street has become a sort of extended family for Cutter. And her two jobs keep her busy: she has the "dead beat" writing obituaries for the "Sans Souci Citizen" and waits tables at the nearby Pancake Palace. Cutter's home is like another character, elegiac, full of secrets, providing her with a refuge from the modern world outside her neighborhood. That is, until Cutter's sister, Ginnie, pregnant with her married lover's child, brings trouble home.
Elizabeth Byers rarely ventures outside the brick ranch she shares with her husband, Daniel, a professor at Palmetto University. Agoraphobic and stricken with panic attacks, she fills her days gardening and writing her dissertation on Emily Dickinson. But one day, an anonymous call brings disturbing news that propels her into action. Elizabeth summons her courage to leave her house and drive into neighboring San Souci, and the disturbing sad events that follow lead her to forge a friendship with Cutter, a stranger who reaches out to help.
By the closing pages, Cutter is losing her house and Elizabeth is losing her husband. The two women pull together to come up with a solution--and find sanctuary from their troubles.

Author Notes

Mindy Friddle is a former newspaper reporter. She received the 2003 South Carolina Fiction Prize and a Fellowship in Fiction from the South Carolina Academy of Authors.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Salvation can come from the most unexpected places, and an unlikely friendship between two women--one strong and determined, the other scared and uncertain-- provides the solutions to challenging problems confronting both. Faced with losing her family's home, a rundown mansion in a once elegant part of town, Cutter will do anything to protect her ancestral birthright. Faced with losing her husband to another woman, Elizabeth isn't sure what she can do to reclaim Daniel's love. And when the other woman is none other than Cutter's sister, the likelihood of finding the help she needs from Cutter seems even more improbable. As Cutter runs out of options for halting the sale of her grandmother's house and Elizabeth runs out of time to save her marriage, their unorthodox friendship ends up being the one thing they both can count on. Relegating stereotypically eccentric southern characters to minor roles, Friddle concentrates her considerable talents on developing fully realized protagonists who earn and deserve the reader's respect. --Carol Haggas Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cutter and Elizabeth, two Florida women with little in common, forge a deep friendship in this crisp, unusual novel. Trouble strikes them both at once, in the form of Cutter's sister, Ginnie, who is in love with, and newly pregnant by, her English professor, Daniel, childless Elizabeth's husband. Elizabeth, tipped off by an anonymous caller, ventures to the house Ginnie shares with Cutter, who was named Catherine but took her father's name. It's Cutter whom Elizabeth finds at home, and their shared dismay over the disastrous affair instantly binds them. Set in Sans Souci, Fla., this debut novel is atmospheric in the way of Southern fiction, but it is also brand new. With casual skill, Friddle makes the case that who we like in life may be as critical as who we love. The friendship between Cutter and Elizabeth changes everything. Elizabeth's money will let Cutter keep the house she venerates but that her sister and her brother, Barry, want to sell. And Cutter's practicality wrests Elizabeth free of her notion of herself as an invalid recluse in the Emily Dickinson mold. The happy ending may seem saccharine to some, but the majority of readers are likely to feel that there's vinegar and sharp greens enough along the way to merit the rich sweetness. Agent, Judith Weber. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved