Green Witch Garden Magic
In the Shadow Garden Book Cover In the Shadow Garden
Liz Parker
Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook

Three generations of witches must discover where their magic went wrong as secrets resurface that could solve a twenty-year-old mystery in this riveting debut, perfect for fans of Practical Magic and Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. There's something magical about Yarrow, Kentucky. The three empathic witches of the Haywood family are known for their shadow garden—from strawberries that taste like chocolate to cherry tomatoes with hints of basil and oregano. Their magic can cure any heartache, and the fruits of their garden bring a special quality to the local bourbon distillery. On one day every year, a shot of Bonner bourbon will make your worst memory disappear. But twenty years ago, the town gave up more than one memory for the year; they forgot an entire summer. One person died. One person disappeared. And no one has any idea why. As secrets from that fateful summer start to come to light, there must be a reckoning between the rival Haywood and Bonner families. But the only clue Irene Haywood has is in her tea leaves: a stranger’s arrival will bring either love or betrayal…

First Impressions

There were two things every Haywood woman knew: never trust a Bonner, and always trust the leaves.

Me, opening “In The Shadow Garden”

“In The Shadow Garden” by Liz Parker knocked my socks off. Truly, I don’t know if there is any better way to say it. This story blew me away. 

“In The Shadow Garden” is told from multiple points of view. Readers are provided with a family tree of the founding families of Yarrow, Kentucky, and I was grateful to be able to refer back to it as I learned each character’s backstory and current position in town. Separately, it’s easy to identify the different characters, but initially I couldn’t see how each individual’s troubles were going to be resolved within this one story. Fortunately, Parker expertly sets the table at the beginning of the novel by giving readers all the pertinent breadcrumbs needed to stay engaged, intrigued, and invested in the developments that would happen down the road. It doesn’t take long at all for the key players to connect and the drama to unfold.

Dig In a Little Deeper

For years, the people of Yarrow would bring their heartache to the cottage at the edge of town, where a Haywood would take one look at them and see the pain that had sprouted from their hearts…. All one had to do was ask, and a Haywood would uproot the suffering from their hearts and ease their sorrow.

The shadow garden, on the surface, is what it seems: a garden. Digging in a little deeper, though, and you realize that the garden is a sentient and feeling thing. The Haywood family would tend to the community and the garden, pruning the sadness and grief from the town’s people, planting those emotions into the garden, and creating a partnership between people and nature.

Thanks to the Haywoods, the plants had flourished, an equal exchange of heartache for harvest.


“Maybe the Bonners aren’t as terrible as you and Grams say.”

“The Bonners are exactly that terrible,” Irene said. “They offer this town empty magic, as if forgetting your darkest memory is the same as healing.”

The Bonner’s bourbon plays almost the opposite of the healing shadow garden. The bourbon allows for you to rid yourself of memories that you’d otherwise have to keep and relive, potentially wallowing in your own misery and grief. All of the town’s folk participate once a year at the Yarrow festival in giving up their worst memories, never to think of them again. Just drink the bourbon and wish away the pain.

Parker brilliantly takes the natural effects of over-indulging on alcohol and twists it until it morphs into a fictional magic. A real world blackout from imbibing too much liquor and potentially making a fool out of yourself becomes you harming yourself, and the weapon that you wielded becomes the thing that saves you from your personal shame.

Final Thoughts

If Alice Hoffman’s “Practical Magic” and Rachel Griffin’s “The Nature of Witches” had a sibling, it would be “In The Shadow Garden”; part of the witchy family, lots of magic and supernatural vibes, but it’s own unique and individual story.

The writing in this story is lyrical, beautiful, and simplified. Parker gives readers with a bewitching story where there is inherent magic in the nature of the universe, and that the ‘ordinary’ can elevate to a magical nature in the right circumstance. This is the perfect novel to devour while greeting fall. Lean into the spooky, mystical, and mystery. Take stock of your own memories, grab a class of cider with a splash of bourbon, and wrap yourself with a blanket. It’s time to get cozy and remember.

For more magical realism books, check out this review of ‘The Kiss Curse’ from Jes and ‘The Ballad of Never After’ by our very own Queen Bee Meg.