I think I’ll call myself Gretel in this book. It’s not really my name. My name is really Jessie Barfoot, which is a perfectly respectable name, I guess, except that there’s nothing respectable about me. That’s one of the reasons we moved to Toronto. I’ve reached the age of fifteen and a half, and we’re going to get a New Start.
Old secrets and new starts stand at the centre of The Corner Garden. Questions of being good—and very bad—are intertwined in a story that moves between occupied Amsterdam during the Second World War to modern mongrelized Toronto.
Jessie Barfoot is precocious, witty and wounded, a female Holden Caulfield whose standards are too elevated for ordinary life. She’s been raised by single mother Michelle, a part-time student and sometime cab driver. When Michelle marries a charitable lawyer, Jessie feels only dismay.
I consider myself far too young to have learned the meaning of pro bono, she tells her diary, much less feel its impact upon my so-called innocent life.
After the new family moves to Toronto, Jessie’s curiosity is piqued by their cranky next door neighbour. Originally from the Netherlands, Martha van Telligen is a superb gardener with a secret she’s guarded ferociously since she was Jessie’s age. Yet once Jessie charms her way into the garden, Martha’s past begins a slow bleed into Jessie’s uncertain present, threatening both their futures.
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The Corner Garden Reviews
Lesley Krueger has created a marvellous character in Jesse Barfoot, who lights up this fast-paced novel about the startling burdens of youth and age.The Corner Garden ~ Elizabeth Hay