Provocative and thoughtful, if at times too wacky and strange…
Familial relationships provide the backdrop for this hilarious, deeply entertaining collection of short stories from Ruggenberg. Ruggenberg’s honest, compassionate observations make “Our Garden” a poignant story of love and relationships as a couple on the brink of separation realizes the enduring power of love and the bond they share while fighting over garden assets. In the deeply poignant and melancholic, “Just an Apple,” a lonely widower and father struggles to sort out his differences with his only daughter. Set in somewhat of a dystopian setting, a man finds security in his garden as the world he lives in approaches the brink of destruction in “Sandy Loam.” A distracted gardener tries to teach his young son math while dealing with a lone squirrel hell bent on destroying his garden in the utterly hilarious “Subtraction.” Deeply melancholic and moving, “Like A Stump,” follows the story of an aging, lonely father who has lost the will to live as old age strikes hard. All the stories in the collection have a common theme: life and love, with Ruggenberg focusing mainly on familial relationships and enduring bonds. The universal themes of marriage, parenting, friendship, mortality, grief, regret, dreams and failures, aging, and individual struggles reverberate throughout the collection. The sad and poignant, “The Transaction,” tells the story of a lonely widower trying to keep his wife’s memories alive. Heartwarming and gloomy at once, the title story, “Leavesdropping,” focuses on the enduring bond of sibling love as the protagonist struggling with mental health problems finds a supporter in his big sister. There are laugh-out-loud moments of pure fun, the craziest scenarios of weird and wacky, pure madness, tiny bits of joy, heart wrenching heartbreaks and enduring sorrows, longing, and death. Some stories delve into the silliest family dramas (“The Seed Summit,” “Strange Soil,” “The Sunflower,” “All Hands on Deck”), while other take readers on a rollicking fun ride as strangers, neighbors, and friends get entangled in craziest of situations (“Yard Sale,” “Deciduous”). The stories in the collection have a slice-of-life quality, with gardening at the heart of the collection. Roggenberg’s extensive cast of entertaining characters—from curious, rowdy young children and gardening-crazy parents to concerned neighbors, and lonely widowers among others—is fully-fleshed out and relatable, and his keen observations and psychological insights keep the pages turning. By turns hilarious, melancholic, and insightful, this marvelous collection is not for everyone, but patient readers of literary fiction will be gratified.
By Luke Ruggenberg
Pub date August 22, 2021
Price $13.99 (USD) Paperback, $3.47 Kindle edition