35 years ago, when they were in their twenties, Niall Williams and Christine Breen made the impulsive decision to leave their lives in New York City and move to Christine's ancestral home in the town of Kiltumper in rural Ireland. In the decades that followed, the pair dedicated themselves to writing, gardening, and living a life that followed the rhythms of the earth. In 2019, with Christine in the final stages of recovery from cancer and the land itself threatened by the arrival of turbines just one farm over, Niall and Christine decided to document a year of living in their garden and in their small corner of a rapidly changing world. Proceeding month-by-month through the year, and with seasonal illustrations, this is the story of a garden in all its many splendors and a couple who have made their life observing its wonders.
... magical ... What makes this book so remarkable isn't just the quality of the prose, which at times almost made me gasp with its insights into the unique rhythms of Irish life, which it conjures so effortlessly, but also the sense of an ending, a running out of road somewhere up ahead that need not always be dwelled upon ... This book, in Seamus Heaney's phrase, catches the heart off guard.
Some will nod knowingly at the musings on courgette gluts, recalling their own efforts to offload armfuls of the fecund vegetable on friends and neighbours. Those with soil-free fingernails, however, are more likely to ponder the psychology of a grower who, despite annual proof of profligacy, remains plagued by doubt and persists in planting too many. But will a non-gardener even pick up the book? Hopefully. Because while the events chronicled rarely move beyond the garden, and while the descriptions are so intimate they almost elicit grief for the dying cherry tree and spark exhortations to the dahlias to hold on to their heavy heads, it is the gardeners’ personalities that bloom.
... moving and surprisingly provocative ... This memoir won’t teach you to garden, but it will show you a way of living in and through a garden ... In Kiltumper is as much a book about the cherishing of a marriage as it is about the love of a place.