Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"In the Garden Room" by Tanya Eby

In the Garden Room
by Tanya Eby

In the Garden Room by Tanya Eby is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Blunder Woman.

It is Chicago. 1910. Eleven-year-old Lillian March looks over her mother’s dead body with a sense of relief.
As a poor woman, her mother, Cora, never had any real choices or happiness with her life. Cora and Lillian flee to the bustling city of Chicago, where she is certain she will have the life of opulence she deserves.
Cora and Lillian face deep hardships in turn-of-the-century Chicago as Cora’s mind continues its downward spiral. With no money and no hope for income, Cora sells Lillian to The Garden Room, a brothel, where young girls and desperate women are kept like flowers in a jar.
John March comes looking for his daughter and his wife in an attempt to rescue them, but even if he finds them alive, is rescue really possible?
In the Garden Room is an exploration of madness, desire and two women’s choices in a time when they weren’t really allowed to choose.

Cora had it all planned out. It hadn’t taken any effort, really. It unrolled like a rug…one push and it unfurled all on its own. They would escape. She would protect Lillian, the way that she had dreamed of being protected, and she would whisk her away to a safe place. A place where Lillian could grow up and meet a good man who could support her the way she deserved, maybe buying a nice home for Cora too, though Cora wasn’t quite past the courting stage, yet. If she weren’t married. It didn’t matter. This was a moment for a new start. To start the way life should: with possibility.
She took their cherry farm money. All of it. Cora moved with the speed of a crack of lightning. This was her chance, and she intended to take it.
John’s ship had been delayed. He was not dead, of course. Not at the bottom of Lake Michigan, where, secretly, she thought he’d be better off. Happier. He was circling the Upper Peninsula where the fishing was better than expected. By the time he made it home, they’d have been gone long enough for a thin layer of dust to settle over every surface in the house, though he probably wouldn’t even notice.
It was amazing how swiftly one could free oneself. Like throwing open the door to a cage, Cora had escaped, bringing her little bird with her.
They took a train to Ludington, and then boarded the ferry for Chicago.
On the train, Cora sat demurely. She folded her gloved hands in her lap and imagined she was a debutante at a ball. She should have been a debutante. She should have been swathed in white silk and passed from one fine-gloved hand to another. Instead, she was a fisherman’s wife with calluses on her knees. That could stop now. The train shook on the tracks, and Cora felt as if it was shaking off her skin, leaving her exposed and soft as a peeled hardboiled egg. For once, Lillian did not prattle on and on. Her daughter sat in a stunned sort of silence, her eyes hollow. Her shoulders seemed weighted down. She’d get over it soon. Every girl had to leave her father, at some point. Every girl was handed over to someone new and forgotten. That was the way the world worked.
The train hummed, or maybe a song hummed within Cora’s chest. The landscape rushed by in a zoom of color. She closed her eyes to it. When she opened them again, it would be like awakening from a bad dream, and she could start the day over again. Chicago was just a boat ride away. It waited for her.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"This was a truly great read by Tanya Eby, who is definitely a talented narrator, but this is the first book of hers that I've read. Now I'm going to have to buy the rest! This story gripped me from the first words and completely sucked me in to Lillian and Cora's world. I loved how she switched back and forth between the characters, so we could truly understand the depth of Cora's disfunction, and even begin to empathize with her perspective. It made her, if not likeable, at least more understandable. Eby also managed to paint a vivid picture of small town life and Chicago a century ago, and find the right words and images to bring the setting to life. A talented writer, a unique and beautifully twisted tale, a story that will stay with me a long time." ~ DMJ's Girl
"This wonderfully dark read allows you to travel into the depravity of early Chicago and see how a father and daughter can overcome the trials before them. You quickly learn to despise the mother, and then feel pity for her as the sad creature that she has become. The daughter is the obvious heroine, and you feel every wrong inflicted on her. Her triumph is both satisfying and soul wrenching because of the journey. You will want to read this story front to back, but be prepared to feel dirty and triumphant as you complete the story."~ Patrick L Callahan
"This is a story about survival and hope and how strong the human spirit can be. A dark read for sure, but very powerful, and a page-turner. The author’s great writing and vivid details bring turn-of-the-century Chicago alive; but it was the need to know that these fragile characters would be okay that carried me to the end. And, wow, what an ending!" ~ Kathy S.
"Love, loss, exploitation, mental health, survival, hope. This story is powerful, riveting, heart-breaking, and important. Devastating, but still beautiful." ~ Evan Heird
"... it just blew me away. i like Tunnel Vision but this is leaps and bounds beyond that. i have never read anything so powerful and so dark." ~ Robert Woodward

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
The book begins in December 1910, as Lillian's father, John, rescues her after her mother, Cora, is killed. But what exactly happened? Flashback to Michigan in July 1910, where Cora, disillusioned with her life as a cleaner and wife of a fisherman, is charmed by Zeke into running away to Chicago with the promise of employment in The Garden Room. She drags along her daughter, Lillian, who she regards as undisciplined and only interested in reading the biology books her father brings home. But will Cora ever find the happiness she seeks?
The story is told variously from the points-of-view of Lillian, Cora, Zeke, John, Chester, Mama Mabel, and Buttons, allowing us to get numerous different perspectives. Through her writing, the author masterfully depicts sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, especially when Cora and Lillian first arrive in Chicago. And in her descriptions of the abattoir, you really get a feel for the stench and filth of the place. In an homage to John and Lillian, the writing is full of fishing and insect metaphors, the most constant being Lillian and Cora describing themselves as caterpillars waiting to transform into butterflies. Despite her apparent mental instability, it's difficult to feel sorry for Cora, a woman so desperate to escape her mundane life that she is willing to prostitute her eleven-year-old daughter; as, even though John may be a smelly fisherman, he is a hard-working man, an attentive husband, and a loving father. The narrative is a bit repetitious, and not much actually happens throughout the story, but the quality of the writing more than makes up for it. This is very much a character study. Your heart will ache for Lillian.
Warning: coarse language, sex scenes, drug use, mental illness, violence.

About the Author
Tanya Eby is a writer and an award-winning audiobook narrator. She has published a variety of novels from romantic comedies to mysteries to dark historical pieces. While her writing crosses genres they all share quirky characters and complicated relationships.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win an Audible download of any Tanya Eby book or a $20 Amazon gift card.