Todd Michael Putnam’s The Garden of Life is an inspirational self-help book that shows readers how to find satisfaction through personal responsibility, positive choices, and showing compassion for others while not neglecting their own needs.
The author shares his ideas through a series of short fables involving two gardeners, referred to only as the Old Man and the Young Gardener. The Old Man is jaded and pessimistic; the Young Gardener makes the best of each situation, often demonstrating tolerance and kindness for his older neighbor, but not becoming overly influenced by him.
Chapters begin with a fable and end with an explanatory section that includes a list of “Gardening Tips” and a reflective question. These sections focus and reinforce the implied truths of the fables.
For example, in Chapter Seven, “An Imperfect Flower,” the fable tells of the Old Man’s pride in his perfect, award-winning flower, while the Young Gardener’s second place, imperfect flower is given away, bringing joy to a young girl. Putnam relates the fable to struggles with self-worth. The first of four tips says, “Measure your self-worth by how much you genuinely care for yourself and others. All other standards are fleeting.” The chapter ends with the question, “How often will I choose to enrich myself by showing others that I genuinely care for them?”
In a world that shouts the negative, The Garden of Life provides positive affirmation that readers have the power to choose faith, joy, and a fulfilling life. Although intended for an adult audience, this is one of those few books that can be appreciated by youth as well. The fables are simple enough for elementary-aged children and might be used as launching pads to family discussions. Teens and adults will find the stories engaging and the truths memorable — and possibly even life changing.