The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

August 26, 2013 Blogging, Contemporary Fiction, Flowers 28

Holy Moly. Bookworms!

Do you remember that reading slump I was whining about last week? It is so freaking BUSTED. I finished reading The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway all of 10 minutes ago and I am positively agog. Like… If this book were a dude, my husband might have something to worry about. All these things I love were wrapped up in this dainty little package and WHERE is my fainting couch?! I do believe I have the vapors!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It’s a good thing I’ve written more balanced reviews of books from publishers in the past, or you’d never believe I hadn’t been bribed. Apologies for the forthcoming unbridled enthusiasm. 

IMG_2911Gal is a 36 year old biology teacher. She has spent her life battling kidney disease and undergone two transplants. Her current bout of dialysis has been going on 8 years. When she isn’t having her blood filtered by machines or desperately trying to get her students to study, she breeds roses. Ordinary gardening just won’t do for this budding horticulturalist. She creates her own breeds of roses by cross pollinating and making hideously stinky batches of specialty fertilizer. She lives alone, as she’s never dated, and enjoys her life of solitude. One day, out of the blue, her 15 year old niece Riley is unceremoniously dropped into Gal’s life. What follows is a story of emotional restructuring, growing together, and, um, the de-thorning of souls. Or something. I’m waxing poetic because it’s just too much!

I’ve explained my love of flowers to you before. In case you somehow missed it, check out my review of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh or my excitement for this year’s planting season. When I was a senior in high school I got a job in a flower shop. I’d always liked flowers well enough. I mean, who doesn’t? But over the course of two summers and some holiday seasons (college breaks and the like) I fell HARD for horticulture. I am fairly useless at the artistry of arranging, but nothing thrills me more than fresh blooms. Combining my love of flowers with my love of reading is a heady mixture, but the best part about this book for me was learning so much about rose breeding.


All art eludes me, floral arranging to photography. Still. You must admit the orange roses are stunning in the hands of my bridesmaids.

I suppose that won’t strike YOU as terribly funny, because you don’t, in fact, live in my head. My middle name is Rose, but roses themselves have never been my favorite. I think the biggest reason is that I like to root for the underdog. Roses are just so… Done. Even my unartistic self could put together a vased arrangement of red roses. Yawn. They’re beautiful, but I’ve always felt they get too much of the spotlight. In fact, my bridal bouquet had not a single rose in it. My bridesmaids’ bouquets had roses in them, because OMG those Chelsea orange roses were just impossibly gorgeous, but still. I was stingy with them. Perhaps if I’d realized all that goes into cross breeding these suckers, I’d have been a little more open to the awesomeness of the rose!

It’s not just the flowers, though. Margaret Dilloway crafted a gorgeous narrative. Flaky family members, chronic illnesses, and Gal’s unyielding academic integrity enveloped my from the first pages. I was already completely hooked and loving this story. Then? Then she went and threw a penguin into the mix! I very nearly threw down the book and shrieked with utter delight. Ms. Dilloway, your rose vines have grown all up around my snarky little heart. Please excuse me now as I start thrusting copies of this book into the hands of unsuspecting strangers.

Bookworms, have you ever encountered a book that felt like it was written just for you? How do you feel about roses? What book would you use to accost random pedestrians? Talk to me, wormy worms! (But stay off my roses. Because you will RUIN them with your worm juices! Don’t act like you weren’t planning on inviting the aphids to your feast. I know you…)

28 Responses to “The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway”

  1. ladykaren330

    I love your post and this book just went on my tbr list on Goodreads. I also have to say that I love that you love penguins. I’ve been a penguin lover since I was a little girl and that’s a loooong time.

  2. Megan M.

    I’ve always been “meh” about roses too. Our first Valentine’s together I instructed my husband (then my boyfriend) that if he was getting me flowers, they better not be roses. He got me tulips. They were fabulous. But I’m not much of a give-me-flowers girl, so that was the only bouquet I’ve ever gotten from him.

    Now I’m wondering how the author managed to work a penguin into this story. A book written just for me? I felt that way about both The Thirteenth Tale and The Forgotten Garden.

    • Words for Worms

      You’ll just have to read it to find out about the penguin LOL. I’m such a book pusher! The Thirteenth Tale and The Forgotten Garden are both pretty awesome, awesomer still that they were written JUST FOR YOU! 🙂 I’m feeding into the illusion.

  3. A.M.B.

    I love the mug in the picture! I adore flowers, but I don’t have any time for gardening. I’m hoping to start doing more of it after my kids get older.

    • Words for Worms

      It’s actually a creamer pitcher. I have a teapot and sugar bowl to match, but when I was playing book model I couldn’t make it work with all three. When the kids are a little older they can help in the garden. Kids love dirt and grown ups hate weeding. Win-win.

  4. Charleen

    Flowers and penguins?! It’s like it was written just for you! Have you considered the possibility that Margaret Dilloway is stalking you?

    (In other strange coincidences, my dad has had kidney disease for years and just had his second kidney transplant a couple weeks ago.)

    • Words for Worms

      I have not asked Margaret Dilloway if she is stalking me, though I did tweet at her… If I found her skulking in my bushes I’d invite her in for tea!

      How is your dad doing?! The new kidney treating him well?

      • Charleen

        He has been in and out of the hospital a couple times since being released after surgery, but never more than one night, and overall he’s doing well. It would be nice if he didn’t have to keep going back, but I seem to remember this from last time too. (I was an oblivious teenager back then, so I don’t remember details, but I remember a lot of hospitals.)

  5. Wayne

    Hmm, I really like Pico Iyer’s books. His travel books about Asia and the weird places he goes to and strange people he meets make me want to go to Bali or Nepal. Not your travel guide for the faint of hearted!!

  6. Kelly

    I am ALWAYS intrigued by a book that busts someone’s reading slump. I know how awesome a book needs to be in order to do that. I know next to nothing about flowers but I think I’d like it anyway. (Really, almost nothing. The florist who worked with me for our wedding thought I was a COMPLETE idiot.)

    • Words for Worms

      Your florist thought you were an idiot? I doubt that. Most normal people don’t know much about flowers. I had someone once call asking for a corsage to wear on their pants. Never figured if it was a prank call or just a weirdo. Trust me, you couldn’t have been that clueless!

    • Words for Worms

      I spent the better part of my weekend gardening. I love the end results, but I could live without the mosquito bites. (I’m too delicious for my own good.)

      • didibooksenglish

        I hate putting my hands in the dirt and coming up with worms. 🙁 Henceforth my husband does all that. I just grow things in pots on the terrace. It’s safer and cleaner.:)

  7. Turn the Page Reviews

    I loved The Language of Flowers too, so I will put this one on my TBR list. Not a huge fan of roses- always felt they were “safe”, but for some reason yellow roses make me happy.

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