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The Garden of Unfortunate Souls by Eddie Mark

My rating: 3 of 5

ebook, 212 pages
Adult Fiction
Published April 17th 2015 by Booktrope
Available on: Paperback, Kindle

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What they say:

“With compassion and superb craftsmanship, Eddie Mark invokes a world of fascinating and unforgettable characters whose trials and tears become our own. The Garden of Unfortunate Souls is a powerful debut from a writer concerned, first and foremost, with the human heart.” -Charles Johnson, National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage

What I have to say:

The Garden of Unfortunate Souls Book Cover

The Garden of Unfortunate Souls is American author Eddie Mark’s debut novel. It is a dark story about Shadrack and Audwin, two African American boys, who grew up in opposite ends of society in Buffalo, NY in the 80’s. One of them grew up in an environment that you could say gave him everything he needed to make it in life. The other grew up in an environment that made the act of surviving life a real quest. Despite their opposite backgrounds, they share a common ground, which is that they both face from a young age: neglect, violence and all sort of negative situations that mold them and make them become the men they do in the end.

The first chapter is great; you are immediately taken into the setting. It starts with an incident that is not as transient as it looks, because it ties the boys’ lives forever. As you keep reading, the story starts getting darker and darker and it keeps on that way until the end.

I must say that this is not a sweet coming of age story. It is a serious and obscure story for adults. It deals with religion, crime, corruption, violence, mental illness, sibling rivalry, rape, drugs, and all sorts of abuse: physical, emotional, verbal, economical, domestic, sexual, etc.

Despite the somber topics this story touches, it is written in a way that keeps you wanting to read the story until the end. It is not a depressing read. Everything happens for a reason and every single event has a direct effect on all the characters. The author does a good job in getting you involved in the lives of these people. There’s a scene towards the end that was very shocking to read. It was a bit too dark for my taste, and it can be too much for the faint of heart, but it is written in such a way that you understand it had to happen that way for the story to really have the impact it has on the reader.

The title for this book is perfect, as all the characters in this story are literally unfortunate souls regardless of their social status. I can’t say I had a favorite character because these people were not lovable characters for me. Some turn out to be truly despicable. In the end, out of all the cast I was rooting for Shadrack.

I liked that the story didn’t have a picture perfect ending. I would’ve been disappointed if that happened. In fact, I don’t think any reader would expect or want a happily ever after outcome for these people. It would take away the credibility of the story. The ending for me was satisfactory, gave me closure and definitely got me thinking on how tough times can shape our lives.

It also got me thinking on the importance of parenthood; having children is easy, it’s how parents assume the responsibility to bring them up that matters. I also reflected on how sometimes people seem to have everything yet they feel empty and like they have nothing, not even hope, and sometimes people seem to have nothing yet they are much more richer in hope and endurance than they think.

If you’re looking for a feel good fuzzy wuzzy coming of age story, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a story that takes you into the minds of deeply troubled people and follow them as they overcome or not their life’s tribulations, this is the book for you. If your book club is looking for a book that will generate deep and serious discussions on the effect of religion, neighborhood or surroundings and parenting, this is the book for you.

The Garden of Unfortunate Souls is a timeless and current story. It is set in the 80’s but as sad as it sounds, it is a story that could be happening in our times regardless of race, creed or gender. It is a book about fortune; it will make you ponder on it. Good or bad fortune, does it matter?

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Life was a rollercoaster, and whenever it plunged and climbed and plunged again, you couldn’t help but throw your arms in the air and scream.


“A strong family is the product of a strong woman. Love your husband. Work with him, not against him. Don’t be sassy. Don’t be mean. Being strong isn’t about having a puffed up attitude. Any woman can do that. It’s about resisting the forces that tear a family apart. Something only a strong woman can do.”


In fact, the way I see it, the harder you should work. You can’t change people Shadrack. All you can do is work harder.


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I received an Electronic copy of this book but was not financially compensated in any way nor obliged to review. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my personal experience while reading it. This post contains affiliate links as stated in my disclosure policy.