Loretta Nyhan sifts through chaos of life in 'Digging In'

"Digging In: a Novel" (Lake Union Publishing), by Loretta Nyhan

For the majority of her life, Paige depended on one person.

Her husband was her rock, her equal and the one she could always count on. Sadly, Paige's husband dies in a car wreck, leaving a devastated widow trying to raise an adolescent son. Author Loretta Nyhan uses details from her own personal tragedy to harness the pain, tenderness and empowerment of Paige's transformation in "Digging In."

For the two years since her husband's death, Paige has been concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. The hot water heater is broken, there's barely any food in the kitchen and the backyard landscaping is a mess, but Paige's No. 1 priority each morning is to get out of bed. The day is considered a victory if she can make it to work wearing a clean suit.

Having thrived at the same marketing firm for decades is particularly convenient. Although she's a hard worker, her boss and fellow co-workers understand that life has been turned upside-down, and they all rally to help make ends meet. That is, until her boss dies. The death of her pseudo father figure coupled with the announcement that his hipster son is taking over and is expected to make significant changes is enough to send Paige over the edge.

Her particular edge is located behind her house. After a slight mental break and a few glasses of wine, Paige begins to dig her way through the frustration, confusion and utter sadness. With giant mounds of fresh dirt and zigzagged trenches in her backyard, the only logical thing to do with such a mess is to ask the cheeky woman down at the farmer's market to help her plant something that she can watch grow and flourish.

The garden becomes her sanctuary. When the neighbours complain, she weeds the garden. When her son gets into trouble with the law, she flirts with the cop and then plants a new vegetable. As her new boss implements silly competitions where the loser is given a pink slip, she digs her hands in the rich soil.

Slowly but surely, as her harvest transforms, so does Paige. She allows herself to grieve, but she also allows herself to remember the fun times. She begins to fight for herself like she fights for her garden. And one day, Paige realizes that the only way you can get to the root of a problem is to dig deep. Of course, step one is digging in.

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