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Two years after the death of her beloved husband, Torre, fifty-six-year-old Gardenia Pitkin is adjusting to life as a widow. She’s lonely and struggling financially, but she counts her blessings—her son, Hans, and grandson, Milo; her good friend, Sylvie; and a new job as an administrative assistant in the English department of the University of the Northwest in Seattle. Her new boss, the eccentric bachelor and Chaucer specialist, Arnold Wiggens, even proves to be as besotted with his dachshund as Gardenia is with hers.
The possibility of romance complicates Gardenia’s life, however, as does her worry about the state of Hans’s marriage. With nods to the wry comedic sensibility of Barbara Pym and her respect for the role of “trivialities” in human life, Always Gardenia combines laugh-out-loud moments with wise reflections on friendships, families, and loss.
“In cheerful, lively prose that pays homage to the novels of Barbara Pym, Always Gardenia skewers and celebrates middle-aged romance, English department intrigues, competitive mothering, brunch, and drum dancing. Betsy Hanson has a capacious heart: Her characters maintain their dignity despite the degradations of living beyond the flush of youth, among friends who outdo them but are too kind to say so. Every hurt, tentative pleasure, and human foible sparkles with authorial precision. The laughable is also tender for being absolutely true.”
— Kathleen Flenniken, 2012-2014 Washington State Poet Laureate