Ever since Katie’s mom died, she and her dad have been having a tough time handling their grief. Katie has pulled away from her best friends, choosing to shut them out because it is too hard to explain how she is feeling. Her father spends his time buried in work, refuses to sleep in the room he shared with his wife, and plays at being a gourmet chef, always setting a third spot at the dinner table. To keep herself occupied over the summer, Katie takes a job doing landscaping work at the mansion of the reclusive Miss Martine. When Miss Martine was young, around Katie’s age, she was the talk of the town and attended all of the society events. One night, though, she just simply disappeared, retreated into her house never to show her face again. Katie can’t help but be intrigued by the mystery of Miss Martine. What happened to make such a social butterfly shun everything she seemingly once loved? Katie’s questions escalate as she and several of her fellow gardeners are assigned the odd task of hand-digging a hole for a gazebo. The estate’s caretaker, Old Olson, is acting very strange with this project: just staring at them while they dig and arriving to the site early to sift through the dirt at the bottom of the hole. As Katie continues to deal with her own grief, she is compelled to figure out the mystery of Miss Martine and the true reason behind the hole she is helping to dig.
Reaction: What a well-written, engrossing story. There were so many different things (and, specifically, characters) that I really enjoyed in this novel. First, Katie’s relationship with her dad. It is obvious that she was always much closer to her mom than her dad but I loved the new bond Katie and her dad have formed. While they are both still obviously depressed and grieving, they have made it a habit to look out for each other. Katie’s dad is always pushing her to get back in contact with her friends and telling her to eat more. Katie is constantly checking up on her dad to make sure he isn’t working too hard and cleaning up after all of his kitchen concoctions. Then there is the trendy, fashionable librarian Ms. McDermott. Ms. McDermott is a support system for Katie’s research; I think she somehow understands that the research is just something Katie needs to do. There is also Sammy, the young neighborhood terror child who can’t sit still and is constantly climbing on things. It is odd but he seems to be a lifesaver for Katie’s father. While Katie only barely tolerates Sammy, she is happy to see the happiness that Sammy’s presence brings to her father. And finally there is Danny, the thoughtful boy who works with her (and his goofy brother Owen) at Miss Martine’s. Danny is a welcome surprise for Katie, who has never had a boyfriend and at the moment doesn’t even really have any friends. Danny is ok with the fact that there are things that Katie just can’t talk about yet. My only complaint may be that Katie’s mother seemed a bit too good to be true, too perfect, though that may just be one of the reflections of grief–always seeing only the good in the dead.
There is so much more that could be said about this small but powerful novel, but I’ll leave it for you to find out about on your own.