Audiobook Mini-Review: Perennials

15 Jun

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

Eva Sutherland — known to all as Lovey — grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is quickly engrossed in a secret project — a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. But the landscaper who’s also working on it is none other than Fisher, the first boy she ever loved. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, the power of second chances, and how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, Julie Cantrell is known for writing inspirational works that explore the hard truths people typically keep secret. While she delves into emotional issues, she does so with a compassionate and open heart, always bringing readers through to a hopeful path for peace, empathy, and healing. All four of her novels have reached the #1 spot on Amazon.

A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie was honored to receive the 2012 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship and to be named a finalist twice for the Mississippi Arts & Letters Fiction Award. She also received the 2016 Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship at Rivendell Writer’s Colony, which is awarded to a writer who encourages spiritual growth, healing, and care through his or her work.

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My Impressions:

I haven’t read women’s fiction in a while and was looking for a good one to listen to on my daily walks. Perennials by Julie Cantrell has been on my radar for a while. I read her first two novels, Into The Free and When Mountains Move, and found them to be excellent. Those are both historical novels, but obviously Cantrell’s writing talent transcends genres. Perennials tells the story of Lovey Sutherland in her own first person voice. The narrative switches from present day to flashbacks of pivotal childhood and adult events in her life. I wondered if Lovey could be trusted to tell the truth (you will understand that bit of irony if you read the book), but found her to be true to herself and others in the descriptions of her interactions with family, co-workers, ex-lovers, etc. Most of the book is set in Lovey’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. She left at 18, and never really looked back. Her memories haunt and hurt her. Complex relationships are explored — not a few of which I connected with. The book is one of endings, beginnings, and second-chances. I went to college in Mississippi and married a Mississippi boy with relatives in Oxford, so I am somewhat familiar with the small university town. Even for those readers who have never been there, you will feel right at home. The novel also has a wealth of references to two of Mississippi’s literary greats — William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. I loved how Cantrell incorporated their books, homes, and even gardens into the plot. You don’t have to be steeped in the lore of southern authors and their fiction to enjoy Perennials, but it did add a special something to my reading enjoyment.

I am glad to find that I can read any Julie Cantrell novel and enjoy it. She has a couple more I am ready to explore.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)