I was very sad when the writing of The Dark Garden was over. As a gardener and artist, I connected deeply with with my character, Thea.
Artwork by Margaret Buffie 2012
Sixteen-year-old Thea is suffering from traumatic amnesia. She is struggling to find out who she is - and who she is not. As she returns home and begins to rediscover who she is, the empty places of her mind fill up with shadowy memories - but whose memories are they? When she begins to see ghostly figures from the past flitting through the run-down garden behind her parents' house, she wonders if she is living someone else's terrible dream.
Thea finds herself caught between two worlds. In one, her unhappy family seems to be falling apart. In the other, shadowy spirits haunt her with their tragic passion. In both, there is anger and loneliness, but is it possible that a murder took place in the spirits' world?
The bridge between the two worlds is a large garden, where time and place, love and hate become blurred - and where everything is possible.
Art by Margaret Buffie
Art by Margaret Buffie
Nominated - Best Book for Young Adults, American Library Association
Nominated Mr. Christie Book Award,
Winner - McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award,
A few reviews for The Dark Garden:
REVIEW: If your teenaged daughter closets herself in her room, doesn’t want to watch television, doesn’t want to eat and doesn’t want to go to school she may have an answer. She may say, "I’m reading a Buffie book." What is a Buffie Book? Well, it’s a book by one of Canada’s best writers for teenagers. Without giving away the mystery, let it be said that The Dark Garden will not disappoint. Characters, setting and mood all meld to make a haunting and spellbinding book....Absorbing and suspenseful, the interwoven "present" and the "past" plots run parallel with characters from the two worlds bridging time. Resolution of past mysteries and present problems bring with it a sense of future hope founded in love. The Ottawa Citizen
REVIEW: The sixteen-year-old narrator of this novel begins her story in an unexpected way: she dies. Not physically, we soon learn, but metaphorically, as she is suffering from traumatic amnesia. "They ask again and again-do I remember Thea? Her parents? They tell me that Thea is her...my name-Thea Austen Chalmers-Goodall....I don't know her. I am certain I could never have been Thea A usten Chalmers-Goodall." Buffie meshes a realistic tale of lost identity and family conflict with an intriguing supernatural plot, using the overgrown garden behind Thea's house as the link between the two. Wild passions and black rage in the ghost story about Susannah Lever, killed in the garden decades ago under mysterious circumstances, are offset by Thea's deeply felt adolescent struggles with the weird, frazzled strangers who are her parents and by her budding romance with Lucas, the neighbor's psychic gardener. As Thea slowly gains more understanding about why she has become involved in a drama from Susannah's past, she is able to start piecing her own life back together. Throughout the book, Thea maintains a strong sense of herself, a certainty that is continually tested by her family's expectations and by a murdered woman's memories that Thea can't be sure are not her own. ... The plot's twists and turns are challenging, but descriptive language, believable characters, suspense, and humor make The Dark Garden a satisfying read. HORNBOOK
REVIEW: a first rate blend of ghost story and problem novel about Thea, 16, struggling to recover from traumatic amnesia after a bike accident. Buffie creates a tightly knit, evocatively written, and lushly (but chastely) romantic thriller. The protagonists - living and dead - are distinctly characterized; a once beautiful, now weed-choked garden is simultaneously setting and symbol of lost happiness. vivid sensory writing makes the fluctuations in Thea’s state of consciousness perfectly convincing. Kirkus Reviews
REVIEW: ... Buffie gives us a ghost story, a story of growth and a mystery, and interweaves them so skillfully that the passions and fears almost meld the living girl with the dead one. Buffie has quickly become one of the most accomplished writers of this genre. Vancouver Sun
REVIEW: (In the Dark Garden) both the reader and Thea are confused by the dual worlds of her dominant family and the lure of the garden. Gradually and ever so skillfully, Buffie reveals more of the nature of this traumatized family. The character of Thea is superbly developed through the eyes of others and her own questioning of things around her. There are times when all of us wonder who we are, where we fit in, and how we can cope with our present situation. Discussing Thea’s plight may reveal things teens face in their lives and want to unravel. I am always impressed by how easily the transfer is made when discussing powerful books, from situations the character faces to those we face in our own lives Ronald Jobe The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
REVIEW: Margaret Buffie has created another of her justly celebrated ghost stories...As Thea pieces together Susannah’s story, she also learns to understand and cope with her dysfunctional family. In learning to say no she dispels the resentment she felt at being chief cook and babysitter to a sullen 11-year-old and a regressive 4-year-old while her parents "fulfilled" themselves professionally. And as the ever-increasing urgency of the ghostly voices propels Thea towards a surprising discovery about murder in the past, the reader experiences again Margaret Buffie’s uncanny ability to create an atmosphere heavy with portent. Barbara Greenwood for City Parent
REVIEW: I began skimming this book, but found I couldn’t put it down. This is a riveting thriller, slightly horrifying and spooky, but totally intriguing. Post Newspapers
Thea’s amnesia is a well-crafted vehicle for revealing the adolescent struggle with a developing personality. Thea has to learn to cope not only with who she knows herself to be inside, but also with the person others remember and are expecting. The separation of these two aspects of self—internal and projected—allows young adult readers to glean a comprehension of how they might be perceived by others in their world. Margaret Buffie handles this difficult dynamic admirably: we truly believe in Thea’s amnesia, in her family’s responses to her, and in her own work at integrating the two Theas into one. Our belief in the characters within the contemporary setting of the story facilitate a belief in the paranormal aspects of the narrative, the style for which Buffie is so well known in the Canadian Children’s Literature world. I don’t want to go deeply into the paranormal aspects of the plot, as I hate spoilers; suffice it to say that it is up to Buffie’s usual standards, remaining within the realms of possibility with only the slightest suspension of disbelief.
Reviewer: Karyn Huenemann works in the English Department at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. You can see her review blog at http://karynskidlitreviews.wordpress.com/about/
SOME READERS' COMMENTS
SOME READERS' COMMENTS
I love your books! I have had the pleasure of reading four of your books. I enjoyed all of them greatly. The one I enjoyed the most, though, was The Dark Garden. When Thea and Lucas embark on the journey that changes their lives drastically, I could not put the book down. I was reading it late at night, under my covers so that my mother couldn't see me. You wrote that book so well that I could actually feel what Thea and Susannah were feeling, seeing, hearing. Thank you for writing such an exciting book! I hope you continue to write such spell binding novels. I look forward to reading your new ones. From: A Very Obsessed Buffie Book Fan in Listowel
"The Dark Garden" was fabulous. First of all I am glad to inform you that I found this book entertaining and mysterious ... The vivid detail and the heart stopping suspense kept me glued to the page the whole book long! The way you described Thea hearing voices was just excellent! As I read the book I kept wondering, what was the accident? I would also like to know how you came up with characters such as Ellie, Wee, Thea and Susannah. ... I also like to write stories, and am looking for ideas and ways to become better at it. Thank you for giving me a good model to learn from. Annie from Vermont USA
I just recently read "The Dark Garden" as a book report...I would just like to say that it was a superb book. The way you carefully had Thea describe Nikos, Susannah, Jeremy and Susannah's father. For example, the way you had Lucas and Susannah recite pieces from "The Lady of "Shalott: was good... I like how, even though Thea had amnesia, she still kind of managed to keep control of herself. As for the other characters, you made them all very unique in their own way. I would have to say that my favorite part of the book was at the end because Susannah and Nikos got what they wanted. I would like to thank you for putting your books out into the world. Amanda from Virginia, USA
...I have chosen to write to you about the book you have written called "The Dark Garden". I just finished reading this book and thought it was wonderful. The book was very mysterious and always kept my imagination alive. You really brought the characters to lifethrough all your descriptive words. I could really licture the characters and the setting of the book in my mind. The characters wer all very different but yet they all seemed to share s pecial bond. I liked how you mixed Thea's and Susannah's feelings, thoughts, emotions together but still they were inidividual.
The story was really neat because in the beginning I couldn't tell what was real and was not. I wans't sure if the main character was Thea or Susannah. That's what caught my curiosity and intrigued me to read on. The ghostly whispers and images made me think what if this really happened to a person ... I thought the story moved at a great pace always staying one step ahead of me ...
The characters in the story were great. Thea's sisters really helped keep the story moving in my opinion. The sisters Wee and Ellie really annoyed her at first and I felt I could relate to that as I have tow little sisters ... Susannah and Nikos really made the sotry suspenseful because you could never guess their next move. Jeremy and Papa made the story fall into placr and were very interesting.
I like this book because it was out of the ordinary. The book made me think deeper. It was extremely emotional and beautifully written. Everything had detail so my imagination could create a perfect picture. I loved the garden. It started out as a place with ghostly hosts and broken hearts but ended as a beautiful and happy place for Thea. The book contained many mixed feeling. of Thea and Susannah.
The Dark Garden is a book that has opened my eyes to a new type of reading. It was the past, present and future all at the same time. From: Sally in Utah, USA
I have just finished reading your novel "The Dark Garden". I loved reading it! My favorite part was when Lucas and Thea met in the garden. This is my favorite part because I loved how Thea was the only person Lucas could hear, and because I loved how Lucas ran away from Thea and that made him so mysterious. I loved how the book was so suspenseful and dangerous. Sometimes I would stay up past my bedtime reading and my mom would have to come to tell me to go to sleep. If I was in a really good part of the book I would keep my lights off and turn on my "Itty Bitty Book Light." I was so moved by your book I had to write and tell you why. From: Frances in Vermont, USA
I absolutely loved the book "the dark garden" . It is my favourite book EVER. You are a brilliant author and I wish with all my might that you would write a sequel. I thought it was lovely that you combined the lady of shallot, in your novel. You're my heroine. I do wish that you would take the idea of a sequel into consideration. By the way, I am also a fellow writer, not as good as you obviously, but I find it enjoyable. You create a world for people to live in. I always wondered why some authors killed off characters, I thought it rather heartless. But when I wrote my first long story, I understood. I can't really describe it, but I think you "belong to the race that knows Joseph" as quoted by L.M Montgomery, meaning you are a kind of kindred sprit. Please I beg of thee, to write a sequel. When I read the second verse of the lady of shallot, I got quite interested. I looked the poem up on line. Sir Lord Alfred Tennyson was brilliant. A bit like Shakespeare, except he's easier to understand. Your Fan Emily, age 12