The book is a story of Allan's life, and in particular that life seen from the view of a year of discovery. It covers hard and upsetting issues. Abuse, childhood neglect, fostering and adoption, death; they all raise their heads and are talked about with frank honesty. Mixed with these difficult and very real, painful stories are tales of the allotment Allan grows on, with his friend Howard. The allotment is a space that holds community, forges and supports friendships. The allotment is a safe space where contemplation happens. A safe space. A haven.
The story is raw. It is uncomfortable, sad, revelatory. But most of all, for those of us who use our allotments as places of refuge where our minds can relax, restore themselves, work through issues, it is a memoir that makes sense to the reader of the importance of that piece of land. The importance of the seasons and the tasks that must take place within each of those periods of time. The importance of the sowing of seeds, the miracle of germination, of growing, harvesting and eating by the seasons.
A book that makes the reader cry on a train, smile wryly, be shocked, saddened, relieved, pleased and all those emotions again and again might sound a bit too hard to read, but in fact this is one of the most fascinating stories I have ever read. The complexity of lives is fascinating. The effect of adults behaviour on young lives startling and the ongoing effects of that behaviour profoundly saddening.
I'm aware I'm not painting a great picture but throughout the sadness the reality of this memoir is that it is brilliant. Without even trying the importance of that piece of land, of the growing of crops and the deep friendships forged there allow the reader to know that the author has hope. That there is something bigger than him urging him forwards, giving not just hope but deep levels of support.
So get this book, and read it. Then read it again. It's bravery is what you're left with, alongside a deeper understanding of the importance of being in touch with seasons, soils and food and how for so many allotments, gardens and growing spaces are vital for far more than growing some veg.