Alexandra Risen

A woman digs into a neglected garden and uncovers secrets, beauty, and acceptance of her past.


A definition is to find (something) in the ground by digging.

Alexandra Risen’s father dies just as she and her husband purchase a nondescript house set atop a natural gorge in the middle of the city. The garden is choked with weeds and crumbling structures. Over the years, as she undertakes the replanting, it stirs memories of her childhood when a nearby forest was her only escape from an empty home life.

As Risen beats back the bushes to unveil the garden’s mysteries, her mother has a stroke and develops dementia. On one of her last visits home, she discovers an envelope of yellowed documents that helps her piece together some of her parents’ unknown story.

Uprooted from the Ukraine to work in Nazi Germany during the Second World War, her father and mother met and married in a Displaced Persons camp before emigrating to Edmonton. They never discussed their troubled past. Her father shut himself into a safe, silent world and spoke few words to Alex during his lifetime. Her mother sought refuge in her garden amidst her vegetables, flowers and fruit trees.

As Risen toils in her own garden, lifelong resentments and misunderstandings are replaced with memories and connections to her parents. Organized around various flowers, trees and shrubs that evoke particular memories, Unearthed is an affecting account of tangled family relationships, reconciliation and the healing power of nature.


Another definition is to discover (something hidden, lost, or kept secret) by investigation or searching.

I loved this book and I recommend you take time with Unearthed and nature. Let me be bossy for a moment: Put on your comfortable walking shoes and go outside. Breathe in the trees. Observe the life around you in nature. Then find yourself a spot to read. Alexandra’s writing is honest, brave, raw and poetic. Dig into the pages and I guarantee you will discover a book that you’ll want to talk about with your friends while working in the garden.

Please tell me what you think about this gem.

created by robertson mcclure