I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
What person who has ever gardened wouldn’t rejoice to have the talents of the Nomeolvides family? They have flower power just waiting in their hands and when they touch soil, lush plants in full bloom appear magically. No waiting for things to grow and fill in, no waiting period!
But there is a price to be paid and it’s a steep one. The women (and they are all female) can never leave this estate and if they fall deeply in love, their lovers eventually magically disappear. This leads to stunted relationships, as the women fear to fully engage their emotions. The youngest generation, the girls just coming into their own, make a sacrifice to the land, hoping to deflect this destructive love-magic, and a young man appears in their garden. He can’t remember his name or where he has come from, but his presence changes the balance of things.
Watching the family negotiate these changes is engrossing—there are some rather heavy-handed “morals” worked into the story, but one needn’t dwell on them. There’s the rich/poor dichotomy, a definite message about caring for the earth and for other people. Not bad messages, just rather blatant.
And that cover? I’d be happy to own a copy of the book just for that lovely cover!