The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns – Margaret Dilloway – 7/10

“Difficult and obstinate. Thriving under a set of specific and limited conditions. That pretty much describes me. Maybe that’s why I like these roses so much.”

care and handling

Gal has struggled all her life with a kidney failure, going to dialysis several times a week, hoping upon hope that she’ll get a transplant soon. While she waits, she teaches biology very strictly at the local Catholic high school, and cultivates roses. As an amateur breeder, she tries to create a unique new strain of the Hulthemia rose. When her niece Riley turns up unannounced, she turns Gal’s well-ordered life inside out… and breathes fresh life in.

Gal is a bit of an odd fish – but to me, a fairly understandable one. She sees everything very much in black and white, is ambitious and scientific and colours very much within the lines. She’s so keen to be considered a legitimate rose competitor, to be validated, while she copes with the devastating reality of her kidney issues. Dilloway includes in Gal the depression of a chronic illness sufferer, the logistical difficulties of dialysis and rose-tending, and the elation, jealousy and heartbreak of watching other patients on the same transplant list.

Like all these types of books (Looking for Me, SisterlandMeet Me At the Cupcake CafeLove Anthony), the writing is easy and munchable without impediment, but equally not unappetising. Extra characters are as developed as necessary (i.e. often, not very), and certain conflicts and romances are easily foretold. The drama of the kidney failure is in a sense secondary to the main suspense of the Riley-Gal relationship. 

Riley, the unexpected teenager, is the unsung heroine of this story. It would have been easy to cast the teenager as the disruption, the troublemaker, but Riley is actually a cleverly constructed character, full of surprises and gentle actions rather than trouble. She’s honest but sullen, open and secretive in turns.

Not difficult to read at all – but quite good fun.

Additional information:
Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Publisher: Penguin, 397 paperback pages
Order The Care and Handling of Roses with Thornsfrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting
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