Victoria Bennett was looking forward to new motherhood. At seven months pregnant, she was excited about what was to come. But when the telephone rang, the news she received changed everything. Her eldest sister had died in a canoeing accident.
Five years later, struggling with grief, the demands of being a parent-carer for her young son, and the impact of deeper austerity, life feels very different to the future Victoria had imagined.
A move to a new social housing estate in rural Cumbria offers Victoria and her family a chance to rebuild their lives. Constructed over an industrial site, at first the barren ground seems an unlikely place to sow the seeds of a new life.
Victoria and her young son set about transforming the rubble around them into a wild, apothecary garden.
Daisy, for resilience. Dandelion, for strength against adversity. Red Campion, to ward off loneliness.
Sow thistle, to lift melancholy. Borage, to bring hope in dark and difficult times.
Stone by stone, seed by seed, they discover that sometimes life grows, not in spite of what is broken, but because of it.
An intimate weaving of memoir and herbal folklore, All My Wild Mothers is a story of re-wilding our wastelands, and the transformation that can happen when we do.
‘Beautiful and subtle, it offers a perspective much needed in today’s world’
Nan Shepherd Prize
Selected NetGalley Hot List 2023
“Prismatically beautiful in its honesty and telling, this book is a radical act of quiet rebellion. Staking a claim of belonging, loving and nurturing on unsure, uncertain ground - whether that's a life, home or land -- and making it a bewitching alchemy. Celebrating the strength, wishdom and resolve of women that carry the cradle of care, wounds and joy, this is a work about the precarity of rural living, and the wild magic of knowledge earned in the face of that. It is a wonderful book. An apothecary of love.”
“All My Wild Mothers is a stunning meditation on the joy of nurturing (and of getting your hands dirty). It is a love letter to mothering and nature and mother nature, which bursts with wisdom, humility and hope. The writing is lyrical and beautiful and feels like a haven in a cynical world - exactly the book we all need to read right now. Victoria Bennett's writing is challenging and thought-provoking yet comforting and reassuring. What a wonderful book. Do read it.”
“All My Wild Mothers is an impossibly moving memoir of gardens, herbalism, and the rigours and rewards of care. It asks what we might be willing to sacrifice for an artistic life, and what we lose of our selves when we attend to the needs of others before our own. It heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in nature writing.”
“A fascinating, tangled read on gardening as resistance and using ancient ways to heal in the modern world.”
“Intimate and immense, it’s wrapping tendrils around my heart.”
“All My Wild Mothers is a beautiful bruise of a book. Full of technicolour pain and joy -- a bruise which you cannot help but press on and a compelling story that grabs at your heart. Victoria Bennett offers us a picked-to-the-bone honesty with the rare skill of capturing important truths we have always known but never realised until we read her words.”
“Witnessing a mother nurture her son and her garden so tenderly while grappling with grief and the responsibilities of a carer was an unexpectedly beautiful and life-affirming experience. A memoir written with tremendous care for the reader.”
“Exquisitely written, this spellbinding book is rich in traditional plant wisdom and the author's lived experience. The garden Victoria Bennett creates with her young son becomes the setting for the most moving portrait of a mother and child I've ever read: how tenacious of life and beauty they both are, even as officials keep appearing to forbid their every attempt at making things grow. This is a book of passionate resistance to everything in modern life that wants us to stay neat and small and fearful.”
“A beautiful, raw, meditative book on grief, mothering, and the wild both within and without. On what it means to tend a garden and a family alike, and on how we find our way back to the beginning, to all that we have always known.”
“I adored this book. It blew my mind that out of something so sad, something so hopeful was born. There is a real sense of the need for patience and time in this writing, and a willingness to find beauty and healing in the tiniest seemingly most unpromising places. It’s gorgeous, generous writing with real heart, a strong sense of place and joy.”
“In my top five reads of the year; such a stunning in-depth and personal book that is part memoir, part an introduction guide to seeds, wild plants and their uses in traditional healing. Showing us how compassion, freedom and acceptance can be found by rediscovering our roots within nature and connecting with our wild mothers. I adored every seed and every chapter down in this graciously honest and beautiful book.”
“This is a wonderful book - lyrical, tender and deeply moving. I was absolutely spellbound by it. Poetic, compelling, heartbreaking yet hopeful, it’s beautifully written ... a deeply moving meditation. I cannot recommend this book more highly to everyone but particularly to gardeners, mothers, poets, nature lovers and to those seeking a gentler yet wilder path.”
“I don't think I will ever find enough words to express how profoundly beautiful this book is. It is so loving, gentle and full of wise words of wisdom ... I feel that in years to come I will come back to this book.”
“almost unbearably beautiful - I didn't want it to finish. I ached for Bennett and her family, I smiled with her in happy moments. I simply didn't want to step out of her shoes.”
“Absolutely loved this quiet book, that celebrates the wisdom of small children, nurtured through the early years and the symbiosis of mother and child.”
“this is not a sad book. It is full of life and hope, and she describes them beautifully.”
“I loved this book. It was full of hope, love, grief, and healing. This will have a special place in my heart forever. I was completely captivated by it and finished it with a sense of hope in my heart, sometimes even in the darkest moments of our lives we still find hope blossoming.”
“A breathtakingly beautiful memoir, the best I've ever read. This is a book to take your time with, read again and again to savour every precious sentence, delight in the dexterity of the text and the moving accounts of overcoming grief and loss, marvel at the delicious insights, and emerge wiser to life itself.”
Victoria Bennett was born in Oxfordshire in 1971. Having left school at 16, she returned as an older student to gain a BA (Hons) in English, and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in her 30s. A poet and author, her work includes non-fiction, poetry and games-based storytelling. Her writing has received a Northern Debut Award and Northern Promise Award, the Andrew Waterhouse Award, and was long-listed for the Penguin WriteNow programme and the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize for under-represented voices. She founded Wild Women Press in 1999 to support rural women writers in her community, and curates the global Wild Woman Web project, an inclusive online space focusing on nature, connection, and creativity.
When not juggling writing, full-time care, and genetic illness, she can be found where the wild weeds grow. All My Wild Mothers is her debut memoir.
Substack newsletter -- Wild Woman Life
(Photo credit Annabel Williams)
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