Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening is a great book for someone who doesn’t usually read non-fiction. In fact, I keep having to remind myself that it really is non-fiction. It mimics closely the happy sort of books I’ve read lately, like Lost Lake and The Wedding Bees, in which people come together and help each other out. The biggest difference is that Mister Owita had a simpler and more believable plot. The writing was beautiful and vividly descriptive. I loved that the author included Mister Owita’s letters to her, because their writing was equally beautiful. The letters also helped give me a feel for Mister Owita’s personality and I found them all the more interesting because they were real.
This book isn’t a memoir about someone doing something extreme, but I liked that about it. Carol Wall’s life is ordinary enough, compared to my daily life, to be very relatable. At the same time, this wasn’t a boring or substanceless book. The author deals with some of the toughest issues a person can face, from racism to illness to death in the family. She also deals with happier big issues like hope and happiness and facing her fears. It helps that Carol is a great story teller. She drew me in and kept me reading curiously, impatient to find out more about Mister Owita and his wife. As is often the case with non-fiction, I have more patience with author’s keeping secrets when it makes sense because of how the story really happened. I think my only complaint is that the book did feel a bit light despite the weighty issues discussed. In a way though, that is also a positive. The author made it easy to contemplate big, difficult questions and really has written the perfect non-fiction for fiction readers. If you like stories about people helping other people, I’d suggest picking this up.This review first published on Doing Dewey.