In the Garden of Sorrows

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
254 Pages
Reviewed on 07/11/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

In the Garden of Sorrows is a work of fiction in the historical, emotive writing, and steamy romance subgenres. It is best suited to mature readers for its sexual content, and was penned by author Karen Jewell. In this seductive and enjoyable emotional drama, we find ourselves following the journey of Isabel Fuller. As she recovers from the grief of losing her son and resenting her husband for sending him away to war, Isabel meets a young preacher who awakens long-dormant feelings in her heart, mind, and body. What results is an erotic and freeing exploration of her true self and the power of love to heal deep wounds over time.

Author Karen Jewell really celebrates physical intimacy in this work for all its healing connections and tenderness. It seems initially incongruous to connect steamy romance with a tale about grief at first glance, but such is the mastery of the author’s emotive narrative and keen speech and thought presentation that we understand exactly where Isabel is at and how her new discoveries and relationship can help her to move forward. The grief storyline of losing her son is never forgotten or belittled, and it becomes a keystone of her life as she grows in this well-paced novel filled with reflective moments, deep considerations, and some very enjoyable romantic scenes indeed. Overall, In the Garden of Sorrows is a uniquely pitched and realistic historical work from the not-too-distant past that taps into everything it is to be human, and I’d highly recommend it.

Jamie Michele

In the Garden of Sorrows by Karen Jewell is set in 1923 and follows the life of Fuller, a non-religious landowner, and his wife, Isabel, who possesses the gift of foresight. Despite unsettling premonitions, they allow a Pentecostal group to hold a revival on their land. While dealing with the painful memories of their son Carl's death in the war, Isabel becomes entangled with the charismatic Reverend Kane, leading to an illicit affair. Meanwhile, she also becomes a guardian to Caroline, a young girl who suffers abuse at the revival. Amidst swirling rumors and the tragic consequences of the revival, Isabel wrestles with her infidelity, her strained marriage, and her overwhelming grief over Carl's death. Isabel's experiences lead to her ultimate awakening about her own strength, her family dynamics, and her choices.

In the Garden of Sorrows by Karen Jewell is a really well-written metaphysical novel. While the fact that spiritual visits meant that two deeply important people were dead, the visits from her late son Carl and her mother Mary Clara are the most heartening lynchpins that shape the narrative. Jewell delivers the visits in beautifully visualized dreams and visions and their impact on her actions and decisions helps us understand her motives, strengthening her as a character. I loved being along for the ride as Isabel embarks on her journey from grief to self-awareness. The story's emotional elements are sympathetically rendered and are not overly dramatic nor understated, but are perfectly balanced with Isabel's premonitions and the tangible reality of her predicament. Overall, Jewell offers up a really lovely and subtle exploration of the human condition. Very highly recommended.

Grant Leishman

In the Garden of Sorrows by author Karen Jewell is set in the early 1920s in rural Tennessee. Isabel Fuller, a vibrant, forthright, and strong young woman, and her husband Edward are raising their family on the couple’s farm. Nothing has ever been the same for them since their eldest son Carl enlisted during the Great War and died in the trenches of France. With three other boys to care for, Isabel is consumed with grief over losing her beloved Carl, a loss she secretly blames on her husband. Isabel knew when Carl went to war, she would never see him again and is frequently haunted by visions of his painful and lonely death. When a traveling preacher visits the area and sets up a revival meeting on their land, Isabel feels deeply attracted to this handsome young preacher, who awakens intense feelings of longing and passion she’d long forgotten. Can her marriage and their family survive this attraction and the blame she casts on her husband for their son’s loss?

In the Garden of Sorrows is a beautiful and sad retelling of a family burdened by needless loss through war. Author Karen Jewell takes readers deep inside the personal grief of a mother who has lost her firstborn. In a rural landscape defined by poverty and need, Isabel Fuller had an enviable lifestyle: a successful farm, a loving and devoted husband, and three healthy young sons. Yet, she could never seem to move on from Carl’s loss. The author does an exceptional job of building her characters, making them identifiable and relatable. The story flows seamlessly, if inevitably, to a logical conclusion as Isabel and the preacher push the boundaries of convention and desire. I particularly enjoyed the character of old Doc Walker, Isabel’s closest confidant and a man who had known Isabel since she was a little girl. He was everything you would expect from a rural doctor; caring, wise, thoughtful, and not afraid to speak his mind to Isabel when he worried about her path. This is a lovely story, beautifully told, and one I can highly recommend.