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The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright

The_Cross_GardenerThe Cross Gardener is about an orphaned boy named John Bevan who learns about life, love and loss while growing up on an apple farm.   He finds a man tending to crosses on the side of the road and through him he learns in times of tragedy,  you are never alone.

From the Publisher (Penguin)

Married and the father of a young daughter, John Bevan had finally found the traditional family he lacked as an orphaned child. But all that disappears when a fatal car accident steals away his wife-and the unborn child she carried.

Filled with sorrow, John withdraws from life and love. He erects a small cross at the scene of his wife’s accident and visits daily, grieving. Then one morning he encounters a young man kneeling before the cross, touching it up with white paint. John’s conversations and travels with this mysterious man-known to him only as the Cross Gardener-will forever change his world.


Book Club Party

First of all, if you are hosting a book club party for The Cross Gardener, you will need to have a box of Kleenex in easy reach of each person in your group.  I am getting teary-eyed just thinking about the book while writing this post!

Decorations could include a white cross and a bushel of  Ginger Gold apples.  The crosses they made were from apple bin wood but you can use a cross that has meaning for you.  For the flowers, I recommend white carnations, which is what John left at the crosses.

Book Club Menu

John grew up on an apple farm so a menu highlighting apples would be perfect.

The Cross Garden Menu

Dessert menu options include a delicious Apple Cake with Apple Compote and a Dip with Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Creme.  In the book, John mentions the Granny Smith apples tasted good with peanut butter.  This dip is also delicious served with Apple Chips and chocolate!  I used extra batter from the Apple Cake and a silicone leaf mold to make the decorative leaves.

Apple Cake with Apple Compote Recipe

Peanut Dip, Apples, Apple chips, chocolate

We have used apples in many other recipes on this site and I wanted to give you links to those as well in case you would like to use them for your book club party for The Cross Gardener.

Rolo Caramel Apple recipes

Caramel Apples with pretzels and chocolate

Oat crunch, lemon caramel, lattice apple pie recipes

Apple Cider Martini 

Book Club Resources


  • “Sharp prose, clever characterizations, thought-provoking insights…fresh and spiritual.”-Don Piper, New York Times bestselling author of 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is Real
  • “Celebrates the incredible joys of the human experience.”  -Kevin Milne, author of The Nine Lessons
  • “The Cross Gardener” is a touching, emotional look at the way people grieve when they lose a beloved member of their family and how they learn to cope in order to carry on their lives. Jason Wright’s style of storytelling captures the reader’s heart and draws them along on the journey to find forgiveness, acceptance and peace through this loving tale.” – Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Discussion Questions (from Penguin Group)

1. John Bevan experiences more hardship in the first few years of his life than many people do in a lifetime. But he does eventually end up in a loving home on an apple orchard. How is this setting significant? What role does this apple orchard come to play in John’s life?
2. There are three brothers in the Bevan family, Tim, Scott and John. Tim passes away, while Scott eventually marries. How are their relationships with John different and what roles do they play in John’s life?
3. John’s adopted father, Wayne Bevan, had a wife who left him because she did not love the orchard as he did. However, John’s wife, Emma Jane, agrees to live at the orchard with John. Do you think Emma Jane is giving up her own dreams by doing this? Or is she creating new ones? What about Wayne Bevan’s wife? Do you know couples where one member has adopted another’s dream? How has this changed their relationship?
4. In Chapter 9, tragedy strikes John Bevan once again on the side of a rural country rode. After it does he erects two crosses and visits daily. Do you think he visits in mourning or in tribute? Or both? Have you seen roadside crosses in your neighborhood? Do you know the stories behind them?
5. In Chapter Sixteen, when John meets the Cross Gardener for the first time, he is at the crosses, touching them up with white pain. John wonders what sins the Cross Gardener is painting away. What do you think John means by this? Continue Reading ...

6. Discuss John’s “Sunday Circuit.” Do you think this is his own version of church? Is it a valid one, or do you think John was turning his back on his faith?
7. John has two children. His unborn son, Willard, dies before he enters this world. But his daughter Lou Lou lives. How does John interact with her after Emma Jane’s death? What does Lou Lou need from John?
8. When Emma Jane’s parents, Bob and Michelle, suggest that Lulu stay with them, do you believe they are being supportive of John? Are they being supportive of Lou Lou? Are John’s and Lou Lou’s needs different and if so, can they be reconciled?
9. Does John struggle with his own faith in this book? It seems as though Emma Jane was well-versed and confident in her faith, but do you think John’s beliefs are as strong? Discuss some instances in the novel where John grapples with his faith?
10. In Chapter 22, the Cross Gardener brings John to an untended road memorial which marks the site where two former orchard employees were killed. The Cross Gardener tells John that perhaps not all suffering has a cross, and not all crosses have suffering. What does he mean by this?
11. Why does the Cross Gardener bring John to Travis’ funeral (p 176-177)? What do you think he hopes to show John by attending?
12. Why does the Cross Gardener take John back to all the places where his loved ones have died? What does John learn from these visits?
13. Discuss how discovering who the Cross Gardener really is, is the true test of John’s faith. How does this tie in to the Cross Gardener’s earlier quote, “No one dies alone?”
14. How does John finally find the strength to move on? Were you surprised that he did? Did you think the book might end differently? Did you believe the Cross Gardener’s journey with John was “real”?
15. Many people have stories of loved ones who appear to them after they’ve passed on, much as the Cross Gardener does with John. Have you, or has anyone you’ve known, had experiences like this? Do you believe this gift is possible?

About the Author

More about Jason F. Wright
Other books by Jason F. Wright

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