Author: Rolf Margenau

Publisher: Frogworks Publishing, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9882311-0-8

Tour de force.

This author is also a publisher, after having worn several other hats, including that of lawyer specializing in international corporate law. That is relevant. So is his volunteer job: Master Gardener. A highly literate writer, Rolf Margenau explains the origin of this designation, the American land-grant university, which was a federal invention in the 19th century to disseminate learning, especially in the fields of mining and agriculture. Every state has one. The Washington State University Cooperative Extension began training gardeners to help in the 1970s.

When Margenau’s fictional Anne Proctor discovers seeds in a handbag she used on a trip years before, she faintly remembers smuggling them out of another country. As a Master Gardener, she can’t resist planting them; and when they produce amazing vegetables, and appear naturally resistant to pests, her colleagues and the university experts for whom they labor want to know more about them. So does the large and corrupt company that makes a popular glysophate – weedkiller. Bemis International Group – Agricultural Chemicals Division (BIG AG) is determined to stomp out all threats to their profits, so the wily businessmen unleash their legal counsel to prove Anne’s plants have been genetically altered, and that Anne is guilty of patent infringement. All the ins and outs and round-abouts of legal drama follow, as do the challenges of gardening in “New Anglia,” making money with toxins, and exploring farms along the Amazon River in Peru. It is the details of these varied settings that place this book close to the nonfiction shelf.

Margenau, whose first book (Public Information) was “slightly autobiographical,” uses Wylie Cypher, I suspect about his own age, to share observations of ordinary life, too, including the nuances of courtship at 30, 60 and 70, and the inevitability of aging. His style and format are unconventional; he doesn’t use any quote marks, for example; and doesn‘t really write dialogue at all. He just tells you the story: what his robust cast of characters says, thinks, and does. If you are willing to go along with that, and hang on tight, it is wonderful ride. More than that, it is a gentle warning. Although this author appears not to take himself or his topic too seriously, his credentials suggest that he knows things most of us do not. His intelligent good-heartedness shows through the satire. He depicts the villains as buffoons; they tar and feather themselves. His heroes are over 55, getting their second chances. The young people are still learning how to love. The dogs are adorable.

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