Sarah, a widow and mother of Nate, 17 and Danny, 11 runs a thriving catering business. She is also a master chef and maker of wedding cakes and is held in high esteem in her suburban Oakhaven Ohio community.
Her neighbor, Courtney, an obstetrician has extended friendship to Sarah during her bereavement. Courtney's son Jordan, also 11 is friends with Danny and is Danny's classmate. Courtney tells Sarah that she thinks Jordan has Asperger's Syndrome, the spectrum partner to autism as he is sorely lacking in social skills.
But does he have Asperger's? Or is Jordan's behavior reflective of external circumstances rather than internal ones? A rainy day encounter with Jordan washes away all illusions that Sarah once had about Courtney. Shivering and disoriented, Jordan stands outside his house, although school has already started. Sarah offers to drive him until she realizes he is in no condition to attend. After a traumatic suicide attempt on Jordan's part, Sarah rushes him to the local hospital where medical personnel discover that the boy has been sexually abused. Ironically, it is the same hospital where Courtney works and where Sarah's husband died some two years earlier.
Layers of boils get lanced as more ugly secrets erupt, dancing out like a parade of skeletons in a closet. Not only has Jordan been abused, but so have other children. Courtney's mask of respectability has been torn off, revealing a cracked, twisted gargoyle in its place. Instead of being loving neighbors and parents, Courtney and Mark have been running a child pornography ring. Jordan, severely traumatized has developed some incredible coping skills.
As more layers of deceit get peeled away, Sarah re-evaluates herself; her neighbors and her judgment. Nate steps up to the plate for Jordan by encouraging Sarah to take him in as a foster child. Once the bandages and red tape are cut away, the family can heal and bond. The Ladens are clearly Laden with love and step up to the plate for Jordan. I especially loved Nate. One part that made me smile was how Nate and Jordan really got into venting their anger at Jordan's parents, who were truly monstrous.
This is an excellent book, a genuine page turner. The garden theme/persistent images is very effective. I highly recommend this book, especially for its realistic and sensitive treatment of a very painful topic. Katrina Kittle is certainly an author to watch out for. This book is outstanding.