Lemon Ice for The Garden Lady

Welcome to a TLC Book Tour Stop for The Garden Lady by Suzan Dworkin.  

About The Garden Lady

The Garden Lady by Susan Dworkin is a novel about unexpected love, the silence that becomes complicity, and the magic of redemption. Urgent and compelling, the story resonates with today’s headlines as it poses the ethical question: How do we live with what we know but choose not to think about or act upon?

Maxie Dash, the heroine of The Garden Lady, is a famous beauty, a fashion icon, the face of many national TV ads. Her first husband, a world-class photographer, took nude pictures of her, which are so beautiful that they now hang in museums.

On the cusp of her 50s, Maxie decides to make one more marriage, something permanent and restful, to a rich man who will guarantee her an affluent life and future security. Amazingly she finds the perfect man. Even more amazingly, she grows to love him. Albert shares Maxie’s passion for the opera and willingly supports her favorite charities. He indulges her delight in public gardens and allows her to endow the community with their beauty. All he asks in return is that she give him her love and her unswerving loyalty and agree to know nothing — absolutely nothing — about his business.

Maxie is sustained by her best friend, the designer Ceecee Rodriguez, whom she treasures as a sister. But she is shaken by the persistent enmity of Sam Euphemia, a fierce young business executive, who suspects Albert of terrible crimes.

Add Maxie Dash to the list of great heroines of contemporary fiction. Smart, funny, enjoying every moment of her hard-won success, she ultimately faces the truth about her life, moves past denial and realizes that “her loyalty was a side effect of her greed and her greed was a crime against nature and her silence, her willful, terror-stricken silence, the true disaster.” Her attempt to turn Garbage Mountain, a New Jersey landfill, into a beautiful park is key to her redemption.

The Garden Lady reads like a thriller or a binge-worthy Netflix series. Entertaining and provocative, it is packed with ethical questions, dark humor and insight and offers us a female protagonist you will never forget.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About Susan Dworkin

Susan Dworkin wrote the New York Times bestseller The Nazi Officer’s Wife, a tale of love and terror in the Third Reich, with the woman who lived the story, the late Edith Hahn Beer Other books include Making Tootsie, the inside story of the great film comedy with Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollack; The Viking in the Wheat Field about the eminent seed banker, Dr. Bent Skovmand; Miss America, 1945, Bess Myerson’s story; Stolen Goods, a novel of love and larceny in the 80s; and The Commons, about an agrarian revolt led by a pop star and set the not-so-distant future. Susan was a long-time contributing editor to Ms. Magazine. Her plays are often performed in regional theatres. She lives in Massachusetts.

Find out more about Susan at her website.

What I thought…

I agree with the publisher’s blurb.  This is an urgent novel.

I read the first half on a flight to Chicago. I thought it was really intriguing and could not wait to finish it on the return flight.

I did finish it.


There’s a lot going on in the novel.  The first half tells the story of Maxine and her best friend Ceecee escaping some dire situations.  I enjoyed this part of the novel as Maxine became the protector and Ceecee became the voice of reason.

I think the premise is interesting, that of a once famous beauty flitting through life, trying to find meaning and perhaps escape some traumatic childhood memories.  I became a bit confused during the last half.

  • Maxine ignores her husband’s business practices and colleagues.
  • She (sort of) throws herself into gardening (hence the title).
  • Husband is removed from the picture (sort of).
  • Maxine finds herself in some odd situations, from returning home to find her house filled with priceless treasures to starting a gardening project on top of a toxic landfill.

Then, things just get a bit weirder.  There’s some minor characters who are kidnapped and imprisoned, duped into thinking orchids grow from maple trees in Vermont…and we find out that Maxine’s first husband was a dwarf.

There’s almost too many characters. These are characters that I would love to care about but the novel wasn’t long enough for them to be fully fleshed out. This is true for Maxine (the main character) as well. I wanted to sympathize with her and almost did.  Her humor comes out a bit, wry and bawdy, but it can’t counteract the surrealistic settings Dworkin puts her heroine in.

I’m still mulling this one over in my head.  Maybe I missed something.

The food:

There’s not a lot of food in the novel even though there’s a lot of dinner parties and charitable social galas.  A few things like BBQ and chicken tacos are mentioned at the catered events.

I was stuck on lemons and ice.  After Maxine is forced to quite smoking in a harsh cold-turkey kind of way, she takes up the habit of sucking on lemons and crunching on ice.

Lemon Ice


Just three ingredients and a little prep and you have a refreshing sweet-tart dessert


  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. filtered water
  • 2 c. Meyer lemon juice


  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook and stir sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let come to room temperature.
  2. Stir in lemon juice.  Place in refrigerator until chilled.
  3. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze until slushy.  (Alternately, pour into a container and freeze for 4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, or until mixture becomes slushy. )

Yield: 4

Obviously, you can substitute regular lemons.  I, ironically enough, have bags and bags of frozen Meyer lemon ice cubes in the freezer.  (Maxie would have gone nuts for these.)  I just defrosted a gallon bag of frozen cubed juice and I was on my way with this recipe.

I’m linking up with Foodies Reads for April

Please check out what others thought.

Tour Stops

Friday, March 22nd: Jathan & Heather

Monday, March 25th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, March 26th: Instagram: @book.hang.o.ver

Wednesday, March 27th: Life By Kristen

Friday, March 29th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, April 1st: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, April 2nd: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Thursday, April 4th: Wining Wife

Monday, April 8th: bookchickdi

Thursday, April 11th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, April 12th: Broken Teepee

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