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The Night Gardener: A Search for Home

The Night Gardner(The Lyons Press, 1999)

The Night Gardener is more than a memoir: it is a quest. Literature, music, the art of storytelling, fly-fishing, gardening as an expression of our deepest selves, the nature of memory, and the desire to story our own lives are its subjects. Ultimately, transcendence through storytelling is the secret strength at the heart of Sandor’s life, work, and play. These twenty essays form a startlingly honest and passionate narrative that strikes a mesmerizing balance between the domains of the domestic and the creative. Sandor is bold and heretical, witty and learned, From fishing in an alligator-infested lake and hiking through grizzly territory to seeking a way to ease her young daughter’s pain after separating from her husband, she explores wildness and solace in both the outdoors and the mind.

“Gracefully, she lures us up and down her streams of thought with simple yet distinctive language as she investigates the natural world and seeks to define her own place in it.”
—Katherine Weber, The New York Times Book Review

“I have never read a book quite like this one. Marjorie Sandor’s tone manages to be both calm and passionate, whether she is describing fly fishing or the end of a marriage. Emotions pass through the scenes like clouds passing over a field, so that the shadows heighten each detail. The impression the reader finally has is one of strength and delicacy, like a hook, a filament, or a flyrod.”
—Charles Baxter

“Marjorie Sandor, whose stories I have long admired for their beauty and generous insight into the human condition, has graced us yet again, this time with a rich and radiant book of essays. Whether writing of the ‘pride and fear and exhaustion and love we call motherhood’ or of fly fishing in Montana, Ms. Sandor’s observations are always illuminating, her writing transcendent, bringing us to the true home we must all of us find: our very own hearts.”
—Bret Lott

“Sandor is determined not to let easy ironies stand in the way of the quest for the rare and marvelous, the gifts of wonder concealed in things as ordinary as a walk.”
—Amy Godine, Orion

“Sandor, author of the award-winning short-story collection A Night of Music, is a smart and witty essayist. Here, in 20 linked, storylike memoirs, she teases out the truth about her parents’ lives, muses on her own experiences as the mother of a daughter, and chronicles her journey from her childhood home in California to life with her husband in Boston, Florida, and Oregon. Nothing earthshaking occurs, yet a quiet suspense charges every page as Sandor’s pluck and rebelliousness emerge. She remembers Uncle Maury, a close family friend, who shared his passion for literature with her, giving her books such as his favorite, Moby Dick. The reader will nod knowingly, thinking, yes, this is why she became a writer, until Sandor confesses that she set Melville aside to indulge her passion for romance novels. Several fresh, funny, and thoughtful essays, including “Waiting for a Miracle: A Jew Goes Fishing,” chronicle her forays into the angler’s realm, but it is gardening that evolves into the collection’s central metaphor as she, like Eve, must leave paradise in pursuit of knowledge.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist