A Victory Garden for Trying Times


A woman’s journey through a year of love, loss, and despair.

Ever since her childhood on a Niagara farm, Debi has dug in the dirt to find resilience. But when her husband, Peter, was diagnosed with cancer in November, it was too late in the season to seek solace in her garden. With idle hands and a fearful mind, Debi sought something to sustain her through the months ahead. She soon came across Victory Gardens — the vegetable gardens cultivated during the world wars that sustained so many.

During an anxious winter, Debi researched, drew plans, and ordered seeds. In spring, with Peter in remission, her garden thrived and life got back on track. But when Peter’s cancer returned like a killing frost, the garden became a reminder that everything must come to an end.

A Victory Garden for Trying Times is a personal journey of love, loss, and healing through the natural cycles of the earth.


This is a beautiful memoir. A compelling and intimate reflection on love and grief and ordinary things that comfort and sustain us — like getting your hands dirty. A timeless journey for anyone who finds beauty in the light that filters through a canopy of trees or the damp sweet smell of freshly turned earth.

Alison Smith, former CBC broadcaster and CPAC host

Debi Goodwin’s Victory Garden for TryingTimes is about gardening the way Izaac Walton’s The Compleat Angler is about fishing or Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is about whaling. Much of this story is about cloves and carrots and tomatoes and weeds and such. But it’s also a touching love story that will break your heart. The Victory Garden of the title refers to vegetable patches ordinary people cultivated in wartime. Researching, planning and eventually cultivating her own backyard modern “Victory Garden” was a hobby that became a backdrop for the larger story: the desperate battle her husband was waging against cancer. The parallel tale is the intriguing history of the real wartime Victory Gardens. And sprinkled throughout are actual tips on gardening. But, it’s essentially a story of the heart, with a sweet and compelling mix of grief and tenderness.

Dan Bjarnason, former CBC correspondent, author of Triumph at Kapyong

Victory Garden for Trying Times is a moving recounting of love and loss and the attempt to find solace though a “Victory” garden. The name is sadly ironic at first, and then becomes a form consolation in the end. I read the second half of this heartbreaking memoir in one sustained session because I needed to know the details of how the story ended. After setting it down, I thought about the book all evening and over breakfast the next day.This powerful afterlife of a book in the reader's mind is a sign of its great power — I enjoyed it immensely.

Antanas Sileika, author of Buying On Time

It sounds paradoxical to say that I found the profoundly sad story of the death of Debi Goodwin’s husband buoyant, but I did. To borrow from the title, this beautifully written memoir balances between “trying times” and “victory,” between the pain of Peter Kavanagh’s cancer and the inspiring courage and optimism of the couple. And through it all runs Goodwin’s garden — a retreat, a symbol of hope and a reminder that our life, like her gorgeous vegetables, has a beginning and an end.

Katherine Ashenburg, author, Sophie & Cecilia

Debi Goodwin has written a poignant memoir that tears away at your heart as you live through the waning days of her beloved husband Peter’s life. Yet she writes with such sensitivity and a keen eye about her garden and how it ushered her through bad times with refreshing insight. You will want to read it more than once.

About the Author

Debi Goodwin

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 18, 2018
Debi Goodwin photo

Debi Goodwin

Debi Goodwin is the author of Citizens of Nowhere and a former CBC television producer. She is also a travel writer, blogger, and avid photographer.