A month after the United States joins World War II, nine-year-old Lark, her mother, Arlene, and her Aunt Betty migrate to San Diego from Harvester, Minnesota, leaving Lark’s gambling father and their Depression-era memories behind. Desperately homesick but enthralled by the young soldiers on the train and a glimpse of an elegant woman she’s sure must be a movie star, Lark hears her mother tell a bald-faced lie to a stranger that leads them to a duplex in a housing project with other uprooted families from all over the country.
While her mother works with Consolidated Aircraft and her aunt takes a job at a local department store, Lark, increasingly alone, learns to navigate her new neighborhood—to be wary of the boys who roam in threatening packs, and to tolerate Shirley, an unkempt girl with a love for piano—and to find solace in her fantasies of the elegant woman from the train, the stories she writes in her room, and the scraggly gardenia bush in the side yard she waters each day, wondering if it will ever bloom. Returning to the beloved characters of Faith Sullivan’s best-selling The Cape Ann, Gardenias is a touching and bittersweet coming of age story.
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Praise and Prizes
“Faith Sullivan’s most enduring talent is for weaving the mythology of unfulfilled dreams into fiction.”
“Lark Erhardt is a wonderful narrator—smart, funny, vulnerable, and real. . . . I loved Gardenias with all my heart.”
“Nine-year-old Lark is a keen observer and patient narrator of life’s twists and incongruities as she settles in to life in a San Diego housing project. . . . Faith Sullivan’s leisurely pacing provides a quiet view into Lark’s fears, hopes, and growing maturity.”