The Garden of Eve

The Garden of Eve by K.L. GoingThe Garden of Eve
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007
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Awards and Honors:
Book of the Month club
Book Sense Children’s Pick list, winter 2007-2008
Missouri Mark Twain Readers Award nominee

When Evie reluctantly moves with her father to upstate New York where he has bought an apple orchard, they dismiss rumors that the trees haven’t borne fruit in decades because the town is cursed. After all, Evie doesn’t believe in things like curses or fairy tales anymore. If fairy tales were real, her mom would still be alive. But then Evie receives a mysterious seed as an eleventh birthday gift and meets a boy who claims to be dead. When planted, the seed grows into a tree before their eyes, but only Evie and the boy can see it-or go where it leads.

The Garden of Eve mixes eerie magical realism with a deeply resonating story that beautifully explores grief, healing, and growth.

"Still deep in mourning for her mother, who died ten months before, Evie and her father move from Michigan to rural New York. He has bought a house and apple orchard but neglected to mention that it’s beside a cemetery, and that the orchard, with its black, twisted trees, is considered by the townsfolk to be cursed. Evie quickly makes two friends: elderly Maggie, who grew up in the house, and a mysterious boy who claims, despite Evie’s skepticism, to be Alex, a boy who died the week before and is buried in the graveyard. Strangely, Maggie’s late brother has left Evie a birthday present—a seed, which may have come from the Garden of Eden. Evie discovers that she has her own role to play in the events that unfold, and finds too that her relationship with her father changes as they learn how to move on with their new life together. Believably and with delicacy, Going paints a suspenseful story suffused with the poignant questions of what it means to be alive, and what might await on the other side—questions that neither the children nor the adults can answer with certainty, even at the end."—Horn Book Magazine.


"After she and her dad move to upstate New York to reclaim an old, decaying orchard, Evie understands that her father is trying to escape her mother’s recent death. She finds herself beginning to believe the legend that the barren orchard and its surrounding town are cursed after another girl named Eve disappeared many years earlier. Her sense of supernatural and real worlds colliding feels especially strong after she meets the sad ghost-child Alex, who had been buried in the small cemetery adjacent to their house just days before. An eleventh birthday letter from her mother and a small stone box ontaining a single seed force Evie and her dad to come to grips with their new life and its possibilities. Symbolism abounds in this beautifully written book—life, death, the tree of life, Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden are all alluded to and explored. Although challenging for its intended audience, the story offers hope to those readers who will identify with Evie, Alex, and the adults who love them."—Booklist.


"Evie and her mom had a very special relationship where they were able to bring their imaginations into the world of magic through bedtime stories. Evie longs for the days before her mother became ill, but it is not to be when her mother dies. In hopes of a new start Evie and her father move to Beaumont, New York where Evie takes a journey into a fairy tale of her own. 

At first the dismal apple orchard that her father purchased is too dreary for Evie and to top it off it’s next door to a cemetery. The events that occur after Evie meets a boy that looks just like a local boy that died, the curse of the farm and the girl that vanished, and the gift of a single seed are nothing less than spectacular. 

Her father has always been a scientific man and that if there is no explanation than it cannot be real. 

“Evie,” he said at last, “you know I’m a realist. I always have been. I trust what I see with my eyes, and it’s hard to believe anything you’ve told me is true…” “But I can tell you this, I’m not going to make the same mistake again. If you need a seed to find Adam and bring him home, then, by God, we’re going to find a seed.”

Through her journey Evie’s father begins to BELIEVE in the unexpected and unexplainable.

K.L. Going immerses you in the heart and soul of Evie from the start and you’ll feel the beat of your heart in your head with every word you read. Kudos to K.L. Going for this wonderful heartfelt novel!"—Donna M. McDine, The National Writing for Children Center.


Teacher Resources:
Download printable pdf

Note to teachers
The idea for The Garden of Eve came about in two parts. The first was when my young cousin, Kyle, said “You should write a book about an apple tree.” His suggestion came out of the blue and it intrigued me. I began to think about all that apple trees have represented in literature and I started to come up with story ideas that might feature a magical tree.

Unfortunately, several months after that, my husband’s brother was killed in a car accident. As the family struggled to come to terms with this loss, I thought about the way children view death, and all the questions they have about it. I thought about death as a barren landscape. A dark, twisted tree without blossoms.

Gradually, the story of a girl and a boy, both dealing with losses, who must now find a way to bring life into their own barren landscapes, began to form. I hope the questions I’ve come up with below will help you discuss this book with the kids you teach.


Questions for Discussion

  1. The Garden of Eve uses many of the same story ideas found in fairy tales. Have you ever read a fairy tale that featured an apple? Or a plant that grows from a magical seed? How do you think this book is similar to a fairy tale? How is it different?
  2. What is the difference between a fairy tale and a myth?
  3. Define foreshadowing. What are some examples of foreshadowing in The Garden of Eve. Are there any clues that Alex is not who he says he is?
  4. Why do you think Evie’s father spends so much time in the apple orchard?
  5. Why doesn’t Evie want to move next to a cemetery? Why didn’t her father tell her about the cemetery ahead of time?
  6. Do you believe that Alex is really dead? (For chapter 5)
  7. Evie’s father says, “There’s almost always some truth in every story.” But Evie’s mother said, “Sometimes the story is true.” What do their statements tell us about these characters?
  8. When Evie says, “Home was a ghost” in chapter six, what does she mean?
  9. Why does Evie’s mom say that she would like the whole entire world to be her garden? (pg 108)
  10. On page 119, Alex tells Evie not to look with her eyes. What does he mean?
  11. Why doesn’t Evie find her mother waiting for her after she and Alex plant the seed?
  12. Father says, “There’s a time for birth and a time for death. Life moves in cycles, Evie. That’s the way things are meant to be.” Do you think this is true? What are some cycles that we see in the world around us?
  13. Father struggles to believe Evie’s story? Do you think that what happens to Evie and Alex is real or is it all in their imaginations?
  14. In chapter 28, Evie realizes that her mom isn’t just outside of her, she is also part of Evie. Do you look like any of your family members? Do you have any of their habits or mannerisms? How might others become part of who we are?
  15. Do you think the apple orchard will come back to life? Why or why not?


  • Evie mentions many different plants. Find pictures of the following plants found in the story, and see if kids can identify them. Play a game to match the pictures to the plant names, to match the names to the plants’ leaves, or see if you can grow one of the plants in the classroom. Plant list: apple tree, cherry tree, fig tree, olive tree, orange tree, oak tree, maple tree, willow tree, lilies, sunflowers, tulips, daffodils, morning glories, spider plants, ivy, raspberry bushes.
  • Let’s learn more about apples!
    • Are all apples alike? Bring in many different kinds of apples and do a taste test. Some are sweet and some are sour. How can apples be used aside from eating? Bring in apple cider and apple muffins.
    • How do apples grow? Is there an orchard nearby where you can book a field trip? If not, here’s a web site where you can learn more about apples and interview a grower:
    • Where do apples normally grow? Find those areas on a map of the USA.
    • What is the journey a seed takes to becoming an apple? Make a flow chart.
  • Ask kids if they believe in ghosts. Find some great ghost stories to read aloud, especially if you’re reading The Garden of Eve in the fall, near Halloween.
  • In this story, seventy-five year old Maggie and eleven year old Evie become friends. Evie learns that Maggie has had a long and interesting life. Ask the kids if they know any elderly people. Have them interview someone and share their story with the class.
  • Evie’s mom makes homemade paper. Find a recipe on-line and make paper with the kids. Talk about how the paper they normally use is made and how that’s different from making homemade paper. Discuss recycling.
  • The garden of Eden is part of a creation story found in the Christian tradition. Find other creation stories to share with the kids. Do any of the stories have things in common? Have the kids make a diorama that illustrates a scene from a creation story of their choice. (Note to teachers: In researching this book, I found many wonderful resources about creation stories, both on the web and in book form.)