Dawning of a New Garden


a novel by Tara Nanayakkara

Print: 978-1-77133-317-7
Accessible ePUB: 978-1-77133-318-4
PDF: 978-1-77133-320-7
250 Pages
September 28, 2016

Confronted with the task of re-inventing her life, young widow Priya grieves by researching spiritualism for a new age magazine and spending time in the garden her late husband, Gabe, had tended. Human contact is limited to an elderly nursing home resident, Jeevan, who is from her father’s native land of Sri Lanka. Soon Priya is drawn further into Jeevan’s world, which includes a mysterious nephew, Suresh. Despite rigid religious views, Suresh takes advantage of Priya’s vulnerability. Soon an isolated Priya finds herself facing the prospect of either single motherhood or a loveless marriage. While her Canadian and Sri Lankan friends Meg and Shobi conduct a tug of war over Priya’s destiny, Suresh’s jealous and coercive tactics prevent her from exploring a third possibility, her kindly neighbour Ryan, the only person whose presence gives Priya a genuine sense of solace. In this sequel to the author’s earlier novel, Priya’s World, Priya’s life is mired in uncertainty, but as spring begins to stir, the garden Gabe planted begins to speak to her of new life and fresh possibilities.

“Dawning of a New Garden flows like a magical river through issues of bereavement and self-realization. It’s a beautifully written story with a lightness of touch that belies its richness and complexity. A terrific novel!”

—Paul Butler, author of The Good Doctor and the upcoming The Widow’s Fire


Tara Nanayakkara was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to Canada with her family when she was three. She is the author of three novels, To Wish Upon A Rainbow (1989); Picture Perfect (2007); and Priya’s World (2012). A professional writer for the past thirty years, her writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, The Telegram and Canadian Living magazine, among others. She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with her husband and two children.

There is a brief moment when the piercing brightness of an early evening sun dissolves into a soft glow. It merges then into the horizon in a startling spectacle of colour. The day that started off new and fresh is now old and tired just like grey haired Jeevan sitting in the wheelchair. By contrast, Priya who was perched on the edge of the green park bench mere inches from the old man, looked as if she had enough energy to run a marathon. Yet every so often she would glance at him, keeping a watchful eye on any potential need he might have.

Jeevan stared towards the lake where a smattering of ducks beaked around for any hint of breadcrumbs that littered the gravel that fronted the water’s edge.

“Nella was such a wonderful wife,” Jeevan mused, the laugh lines on his bronzed face deepening in concentration as he recalled a fond memory. “My word, could she ever cook!”

“I can imagine,” Priya said, fondly recalling all the great meals she’d shared with Gabe during their eight-year marriage. “Does the hurt ever go away, I wonder?”

“Can’t say,” Jeevan shook his head. “But for me it is so much easier than for you. I am old now and in God’s good time, I will be with Nella, but you… you are far too young to be a widow. You are what, twenty-eight, twenty-nine now?”

Priya smiled sadly, “thirty-five. It’s been four months since Gabe died but it still feels like ten minutes ago.”

“And even though you’ve been coming to the home to see me for the past year,” he replied, “I feel as if we’ve known each other a very long time.”

“I think that’s how it works when two people click,” Priya suggested. “I’m glad that we can talk about our lives and share like this…” His words drifted into a brief silence and then he picked up the thread of his thought. “I say! What a thing! You find someone who loves and looks after you and then,” he snapped his fingers, “Gone just like that.”

4 reviews for Dawning of a New Garden

  1. inannaadmin

    Established Fiction
    Dawning of a New Garden by Tara Nanayakkara
    reviewed by David Staines
    University of Toronto Quarterly Volume 87 Issue 3, Summer 2018

    Finally, attention should be paid to Toronto’s Inanna Publications in the realm of the novel. Although their books are not yet major works, Inanna’s commitment to quality reveals fiction that is highly individual and worth reading…

    In Tara Nanayakkara’s Dawning of a New Garden, Priya, a woman who is thirty-five years old, is newly widowed. Four months after her husband’s death, she endures a one-night stand with Suresh, which leaves her pregnant. As a consequence, she is about to enter a loveless marriage with him until she learns that his jealous and manipulative tactics were part of his plan to trap her into marriage and move her to Toronto. When the wedding does not take place, Suresh commits suicide, leaving a note announcing that he was a homosexual…this plot has a good outline…

  2. inannaadmin

    Themes of Sri Lankan and Canadian Customs Interwoven
    Dawning of a New Garden reviewed by Heather White
    Atlantic Books Today – January 11, 2017

    The novel Dawning of a New Garden begins at a nursing home in St. John’s called Sunset Ridge, where an early evening sun dissolves into a soft glow. “The day that started off new and fresh was old and tired,” writes the book’s author, Tara Nanayakkara. And so it is that a new day — or reinvented garden — is on the horizon, yet to be realized.

    Our protagonist is a 35-year-old freelance writer named Priya, who, apart from two girlfriends is alone in the world. Her parents died 10 years earlier; her husband, a mere few months earlier. Looking to take her mind off her grief, she is connected with a widowed nursing home resident named Jeevan, from her father’s native Sri Lanka. Priya and Jeevan become fast friends and she calls him “Uncle,” in part a South Asian custom to show respect for an elder but also because she feels he is the closest she has to family.

    Within the first five pages of the 240-page novel, Jeevan’s nephew, Suresh, shows up at the nursing home, out of the blue from Toronto. A love-hate tension is set up between Priya and Suresh, which slowly builds in the ensuing pages. “Maybe there’s a deep dark family secret lurking in the background,” says one of Priya’s friends early on, foreshadowing the drama to come.

    Several contrasting themes are debated throughout the plot, such as being a single parent versus marrying someone you don’t love, arranged marriages and love-based matches, setting Sri Lankan customs beside Canadian ones, overcoming challenges vs. succumbing to them. Priya is writing for a New Age magazine; Suresh is a journalist for a Christian publication.

    Indeed, while Priya’s friends Meg and Amina debate her future, she says she feels like a spectator on The View, an American talk show hosted by a panel of women who offer their take on the day’s news.

    Memories of the past are conjured by current events — for example Priya recalls her engagement to her deceased husband, Gabe, after watching Suresh and his mother quibble over a suitable engagement ring for her — as she tries to make sense of her life.

    The story is marbled by a sometimes scented gastronomic aspect, such as triangles of vanilla bean cheesecake, rice and curry, pepper-crusted Atlantic salmon fillet, tomato bisque, warm scones … Best not to read while hungry.

    While Priya initially finds sanctuary in the home she shared with Gabe and in the garden that he built, in communion with a statue of the archangel Gabriel, as the book ends she is ready for the next chapter of her life to begin.

  3. inannaadmin

    Dawning of a New Garden by Tara Nanayakkara
    reviewed by The Miramichi Reader – December 26, 2016

    A well written, well-paced novel whose female protagonist, Priya is still mourning the recent (and sudden) death of her beloved husband when she unexpectedly meets Suresh, the nephew of Jeevan, a Sri Lankan man whom she regularly visits in a senior’s residence in St. John’s. While Suresh is likable (and Priya is definitely not looking for another husband), there is something about Suresh that both attracts her but while he does come across as caring, there is a certain controlling aspect to his demeanor, reminding Priya too much of her father. After one intimate evening (in which Suresh appears to have taken advantage of Priya’s momentary weakness) she finds herself pregnant for the first time. It is at this point that Priya is faced with some tough decisions, and she seeks the advice of a professional counselor as well as her close friends. She is, however, determined to keep the child and suffer any other consequences that may come, including marriage to a man she does not love. Nevertheless, Priya is a steadfast woman and with the help of three good friends (one being Ryan, who is quite attracted to Priya) she attempts to do what is right, both for her conscience and for the growing life inside her.

    Dawning of a New Garden is a satisfying story that encompasses cultural traditions, spirituality, taboos and above all, love and close friendship.

  4. inannaadmin

    Dawning of a New Garden by Tara Nanayakkara
    reviewed by Maya Khankhoje
    Herizons Magazine- Spring 2017 issue (print only)

    Dawning of a New Garden is a novel about bereavement, loneliness, dysfunctional families, conflicting traditions and human drama set against the backdrop of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. It chronicles the life and struggles of Priya Johansson, a young widow of Sri Lankan and Canadian origin who is trying to come to terms with loss.

    Priya is a freelance writer who decides to research the subject of spirituality, partly to earn a living and partly to heal her wounds. She also volunteers to befriend Jeevan, an elderly Sri Lankan man who lives in a residence for seniors. They soon bond and develop and Old World uncle-niece relationship. In comes Suresh, Jeevna’s blood nephew from Toronto, to upset the apple cart, Suresh, despite his rigid evangelical moral code, leaves Priya pregnant after a one-night stand. He later proposes marriage in order to provide stability for teh child and to fulfil, as we learn later, a personal agenda of his own.

    Priya, however, is attracted to Ryan, a friendly neighbour who reminds her vaguely of her late husband. And here lies the dilemma. Will Priya marry Suresh following the arranged-marriage traditions of her father’s land? Or will she simply follow her heart and the tradition of her mother’s land? Above all, what is best for this child conceived in a moment of weakness when she couldn’t have children with her beloved late husband? Since Priya lost her parents years ago, she cannot consult them for guidance. She is all alone in the world except for Meg and Amina, her Canadian and Sri Lankan friends, who pitch in with conflicting advice.

    The cheerful cover of Dawning of a New Garden, as well as the simplicity of the authorial voice, might mislead readers into thinking this is a conventional novel with a conventional ending. Far from it. When Tara Nanayyakara wrote it as a sequel to her novel, Priya’s World, she was fully aware that there are no happy or unhappy endings, only new beginnings.

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