Reviews of A Garden of Aloes – tough on the outside so they can stay soft within." – Kirkus
The dialogue in the book is just right: each voice, distinct; conversations ring true. Setting is also well done. Ms. Jandrey evocatively captures the grit and heat of hardscrabble life in the Southwest where the poor, lonely and misfit often wind up, too near mean streets, too far from hope. Scenes cry out for classroom dramatization, email exchanges, quiet reflection. Too many abused women and children understandably choose to hide, deny or act out, but as one of Ms. Jandrey s central characters says, ignorance and secrecy are more dangerous than the truth, no matter how ugly. Easier acknowledged than acted on, as the novel shows, but persuasive as a theme and compelling in the way it is realized. --The Independent
Gayle Davies Jandrey spent 28 years teaching public high schoolers and this experience, no doubt, has enabled her to create an incredible cast of real characters in her debut work of fiction, A Garden of Aloes.
Jandrey does an outstanding job crafting six characters (all female) distinct voices, particularly twelve year old Sam, the character readers will have a chance to meet first in A Garden of Aloes. In this suspenseful, witty, and poignant page-turner you will not have to read several chapters before getting to the juicy scenes. A Garden of Aloes is straight off heartrending and humorous.
"Abused and abandoned mothers and daughters learn to be like aloes
In order to escape an abusive relationship, Leslie, along with her two daughters, twelve year old Sam and sixteen year old Audrey, trade in a well-to-do life and a big beautiful home in northern California for a poor life in Tucson Arizona. They move into a cockroach infested converted motor court, the Oasis Apartment, in a neighborhood swarming with winos, prostitutes, and crackheads. The street is called The Miracle Mile. It s a miracle all right a miracle that we weren t robbed or worse, says twelve year old Sam about her new life and new neighborhood. The other three characters in A Garden of Aloes are Chablee, a biracial teen who befriends Audrey; Eden, a topless dancer and Chablee s mother, befriends Leslie; and Dee, a 400 pound 40 year old with multiple personalities, befriends twelve year old Sam. Although the characters are somewhat dissimilar, they share something in common: abuse, abandonment, and life at the Oasis Apartment.
Although Jandrey s characters are fictitious, Sam does have Jandrey s childhood fear of vampires. On nights when I awoke too full of dread to go back to sleep, it was my very own sister who d let me crawl into the safest part of her twin bed, no small sacrifice since I was a rather chunky ten-year-old at the time, recalls Jandrey in her Acknowledgments.
A Garden of Aloes made me realize that I should take nothing for granted because what s here today could very well be gone tomorrow, and just like the characters in A Garden of Aloes, starting life over can happen to anyone.
A Garden of Aloes will bring tears to your eyes and have you rolling with laughter. But do not get it twisted; the unfortunate state of affairs of the women who resides at the Oasis is no laughing matter. --Vanessa Dora Murray for Her Circle Ezine
A Garden of Aloes is a book entirely centered around women, but Lifetime TV ready it's not -- and that's a good thing....
Gayle Davies Jandrey has crafted--from the experience of her 28-year career as a school teacher-- a compact, compelling debut novel that is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming. Best of all, it's blissfully free of the cliches that too often mar feminist fluff.
Faced with abuse, marginalization and other challenges that test their collective souls, a group of women and girls living in a motor court on the Miracle Mile in Tucson--Audrey, Sam, Eden, Chablee, Leslee and Dee--find each other in friendships that are literally life saving....
Davies Jandrey is a master of voice: Chablee is bombastic; Sam is introverted; Dee is manic; and Leslie is just plain tired. All of these women are bound by their innocence and their trauma. Each of them has been abused and feels suspended between guilt , rage, and despair. But as their lives begin to intertwine, they find from their shared experience a collective hope. One by one, they realize they have an ability to help and be helped. This tenuous bond--trusting anyone, even a fellow woman, is hard for each of them--is only strengthened when a horrific tragedy occurs in their midst.
A Garden of Aloes is, at its core, an outpouring of sympathy and empathy for the poor, maligned women of Tucson and beyond, but it's never cloying and is thankfully free of girl-power clichés and easy fixes to complex problems. The book instead reads like a series of confessionals, as though each woman was brought into a private room, given a camera, and asked to unload. Each character is wrought from Davies Jandrey's compassionate, life-long observation of women facing multitudinal horrors. The fearless book that results is at once a suspenseful page-turner and an intimate tear-jerker. A Garden of Aloes is truly a remarkable first effort. --Tucson Weekly