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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book Review: Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

Backyard GiantsBackyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

There are some that say gardening contains all the drama of human life -- happiness and sadness, triumph and defeat, jealousy, hatred, life and death. Of course, there are some elements of gardening that contain all this and more. Such is the world of those hearty gardeners who attempt to grow the biggest pumpkin in the world.

I received a review copy of Backyard Giants a few weeks ago, thinking that I might try it after finishing some other weightier business tomes. I wasn't sure what to expect from the title, but soon found myself immersed in a world I only vaguely knew. Sure, I had seen growers on television and in magazines, touting their humungous, over-grown "pumpkins", but I had never realized what goes on behind the scenes -- in the garden and in the clubhouses of gardening clubs -- across the country.

Author Susan Warren hooked me from the first chapter as she introduces Ron and Dick Wallace, giant pumpkin growers from Rhode Island, the focus of the book. I immediately felt like I knew these men and were overhearing their conversations instead of reading them on the page. Warren puts the reader right their beside them as they create a new pumpkin patch, chose their seedlings and start another, summer-long, attempt at a world record pumpkin. Along the way we get to know their fellow growers, both local, national and, in the case of one Canadian grower, international.

Throughout the book we look on as they pick, chose, change their minds, wonder and worry. Were they doing everything they can? Were they doing too much? Too little? Growing giants is a worrisome task and can lead to strained marriages and sleepless nights. We feel each triumph and each defeat as weather, wildlife and worry take their toll on both the gardeners and their charges.

I didn't linger over Backyard Giants. I devoured it. I found myself pulled through the pages, wanting to know what happened to this grower or that. Would the Wallace's achieve their long-desired goals, or would their dreams be left to rot in the garden? I am sure others will think it odd that I find such drama in a gardening story, but at its very heart, this is a story of people. People who dare to dream Cinderella dreams of coach-sized pumpkins that earn the title -- the biggest pumpkin in the world.

Highly Recommended.


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