erasing clouds

Book Review: Jonathan Rendall's Garden Hopping

review by anna battista

The title of Jonathan Rendall’s book is taken from a sort of hobby his friend Clive taught him when he was thirteen: leaping through a line of people’s gardens in the dead of night. As you read on, though, you discover that Rendall, who was adopted in the ‘60s, uses the name for this pastime as a metaphor to define the search for his real parents.

The idea of going to look for his mother came to Rendall during a personal crisis. Dismissing his drinking comrades’ advice not to do it to avoid suffering, Rendall set on his quest. What follows is a description of Rendall’s search that also features episodes from his childhood, from when he discovered he was adopted at the age of eight to the fights and quarrels with his brother and sister – also adopted kids – and the somewhat failed relationship he developed with his adoptive parents.

The structure of this memoir is puzzle-like: Rendall analyses various events in his life, jumping from one bit to another, mixing childhood adventures with his life as an adult. The best chapters are the ones in which, after finding his real mother, Rendall starts hanging around with her and the two spend entire nights getting drunk together and talking. After a while, though, this mother-son relationship will show its cracks, and Rendall soon realises that he should have listened to his friends’ warnings.

Rendall’s style is engaging and makes Garden Hopping an easy read, even though it deals with the complex and painful subjects of adoption and identity.


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