Synopses & Reviews
The story of a woman dancing on the edge of a difficult life
Ever since her husband left her—seemingly vanishing into thin air—Charleen Forrest has supported herself and her fifteen-year-old son on what she earns as an obscure poet and part-time gofer for an even more obscure scientific journal. But when her estranged mother remarries, prompting an unplanned reunion, Charleen finds herself moving out of her familiar existence.
A dazzling counterpoint to Shields’s debut novel, Small Ceremonies, imbued with her scathing wit and dead-on observations, The Box Garden is an unforgettable portrait of a woman who finds transformation—and happiness—where she least expects it.
“The novel’s protagonist, Charleen Forrest, is an appealing combination of common sense and irrepressible idealism . . . [Carol Shields’s] straightforward, low-key prose . . . brings us to the vital center of Charleen’s emotional life.” —Toronto Star
“Enlightening . . . draws a memorable portrait of a bitter mother and her daughters.” —The New York Times
“A shrewd and skillful storyteller.” —Chicago Tribune
“[The Box Garden] is fun, it is lively, it has intelligence . . . What makes [Carol Shields] special, apart from her flashing wit, her generosity and her insight into the extraordinariness of ordinary life, is her formal inventiveness, at once modest and daring, like a Modernist seamstress.” —Literary Review
The novels and stories of Carol Shields answer a daunting question: What makes a life? Her characters, from the unforgettable Tom and Fay of The Republic of Love to the vivid characters of Shields’s short stories, are drawn so perceptively as to become real. Shields once wrote of “the way a human life drains toward one revealing scene”—and these novels and story collections capture entire existences. Shields’s characters lead ordinary lives of extraordinary variety and emotional richness, crystallized by the precise eye of this award-winning fiction writer. Her great talents have been recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, Canada’s Governor General’s Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the UK’s Orange Prize, and many other honors.
About the Author
Carol Shields (1935–2003) was born in Oak Park, Illinois. She studied at Hanover College, the University of Exeter in England, and the University of Ottawa. In 1957, she married Donald Shields and moved to Canada permanently. She taught at the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Manitoba, and served as chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. She wrote ten novels and three short story collections, in addition to poetry, plays, criticism, and a biography of Jane Austen. Her novel The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer Prize, the Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award; it was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Shields was further recognized with a Canada Council Major Award, two Canadian National Magazine Awards, the Canadian Authors Association Award, and countless other prizes and honors.