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Four Tenths of an Acre page

Four Tenths of an Acre: Reflections on a Gardening Life
Random House, 2005
Thorndike Press, large print edition, 2005

Written with warmth and grace, this series of linked essays offers a thoughtful meditation on the natural world; a portrait of writers and artists who garden; a view of past and present gardening rituals in a traditional New England town; and ultimately the story of finding personal fulfillment in nature.


Listen to Laurie discussing Four Tenths of an Acre on the radio program Between the Covers and see photographs of where she writes and where she gardens.


Reviews of Four Tenths of an Acre


"Lisle's writing reminds a reader of Capability Brown, a bit of Gertrude Jekyll, a bit of Katherine White." ~The Los Angeles Times


 "An elegantly written yet also edgily realistic account of small town, small garden life." 

~ Kirkus Reviews


"Lisle is a disciplined and thoughtful worker unafraid of taking on the heavy work required in her garden and at her writing desk. Lisle plants her themes alongside each other so that they complement and harmonize like flowers in a perennial border...She is constantly learning, always observing, unafraid to make changes in her garden and in her life." ~ Michelle Gillett, The Women's Times

The author "is a graceful and insightful writer who can elevate the simplest gardening activity to inner feelings or broader themes." ~ Ethel Fried, The Journal Inquirer

"What a pleasure it is to follow Laurie Lisle's progress as she works to transform a bare, neglected plot of land into the garden of her imagination. As her perennials take root, grown, and blossom, so does the author, finding a secure place in a new home, a new town, and, many seasons later, a new marriage to a man who learns that you can't separate the gardener from the garden. Not even deer, who try their mightiest, can do that." ~ Le Anne Schreiber, author, Midstream and Light Years

"In Laurie Lisle's delightful account of putting together a new life and a new garden in Northwest Connecticut, gardening becomes an engaging metaphor for the pleasures and hazards of everyday living." ~ Jane Garmey, editor, The Writer in the Garden

"Like many women before her, Laurie Lisle has embodied the life of her imagination in a garden. This book is an unexpectedly moving evocation of that life, chronicled by a writer of grace and delicacy--and an enchanting portrait of one of New England's most glorious landscapes." ~ Honor Moore, author of Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Midcentury


"Just as winter's tranquility masks the feverish underground activity of bulbs gathering fuel for spring blossoms, so, too, does a life undergo complex metamorphoses as transitions are either chosen or forced upon it. Lisle found herself at just such a turning point following her divorce and, leaving behind the hectic, sophisticated pace she enjoyed as an acclaimed journalist in Manhattan, she set out to find a simpler, more rewarding way of living. A historic village in rural Connecticut held just the right house and garden in which Lisle could rediscover her true essence. In this beguiling and wise memoir, Lisle recounts the lessons learned as she worked a tiny plot of land, weeding not only errant plants but also those wayward thoughts and behaviors that she once thought impossible to let go. Lisle's cogent meditations on the rewards of working the land and nurturing the soil are elegant, eloquent reminders of the importance of listening to the inner muse." ~ Carol Haggas, Booklist


"The descendant of generations of women gardeners, Lisle casually dispenses advice for meeting the challenge of creating a "little acadia" in a space that "looked like no one had ever gardened there before." In her rural Connecticut backyard, Lisle deals with common problems, including the vicissitudes of weather; the always-encroaching woods; and pests and deer that can, within minutes, destroy what has taken her years to grow. Lisle's range, wider than her long and narrow garden, takes in a world of horticulturists (both growers and fanciers) from well-known literary figures like Hawthorne and Wharton to those revered for their gardening-centric works, such as Gertrude Jekyll. Having recently moved north from Manhattan, Lisle immerses herself not only in her new home but in the depths of its three-century history, unraveling the construction of a local Georgian manor and analyzing the drawing of a young girl that Lisle finds at a neighboring town's historical society. Lisle finds "many similarities between the rules and routines of writing and gardening." As gardeners try to give shape to nature, Lisle's book does to a life, which is as challenging, complex, and resistant to order as a garden. Her work will satisfy armchair gardeners as well as those already elbow-deep in dirt." ~ Publishers Weekly