Debra Hester
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781478757375
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (11/18)

“My Backyard Garden” by Debra Hester is a love story, though not in the traditional sense of the lover’s relationship.  Rather, it is the love story of a daughter as she moves through the grief of losing her beloved mother.

This memoir is unique in the manner in which it is written. The author comes to a realization that though grief occurs as a natural part of life, it exists, or seems to exist on another level within our world as an unknown, until it is experienced at a relational level.  Thus, she intentionally uses relational names rather than the actual names of her family members, for example, from page 18: “So somewhere after my arrival to ICU and the discussions with Sister, Brother and the doctors, I knew the time was approaching to offer Daughters an opportunity to fly to Phoenix from Baltimore to see their grandmother.” By offering the relational status of a family member it allows the reader to identify on a different level, perhaps even substituting the names of their own family members and personalizing the experience. For me this style was awkward at first because rather than connecting with the people involved, I felt a bit separated and distanced. As I continued reading however, it became more natural and I was able to focus more keenly on the message itself.

Hester relates the days leading up to her mother’s death, through her peaceful transition, and the months following, sharing her raw emotions without apology.  It is through the depths of her emotions that she hopes she will encourage people to allow themselves the grieving process in order to get to a place of healing.

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A short 50-page memoir, readers might imagine they will sail through the text in one sitting, but I recommend reading it slowly and taking the time to welcome and contemplate the insight Hester offers throughout her journey.  The beautiful tribute to her mother will stir up memories, giving reason to pause and appreciate your relationship with your own mother.

Hester’s profound love for her mother shines through the pages. One of my favorite passages is a quote by her mother which seems to clearly depict who she was as a person, “If a task has once begun, never finish till it’s done.  Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” (p.48).

I recommend “My Backyard Garden” by Debra Hester to anyone that has lost their mother or other loved one and is looking for strength, wisdom and guidance.