Praise for "Cutting Back"
"My fantasies of moving to Kyoto were in full bloom when I picked up an unusual and entertaining memoir by Leslie Buck."
–New York Times Book Review: Dominique Browning
"Buck's book is as much a story of bravery and the challenge of adapting to an unfamiliar culture as it is of horticulture. Anyone contemplating a brave career gamble will learn from it."
–Pam Peirce of the San Francisco Chronicle
"Pruner recounts sharpening her skills at intense boot camp in Japan."
–Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post
“Leslie goes all the way, immersing herself in Japan’s gardening culture to master a craft to its fullest. I admire her dedication and this beautiful book that is a testimony to her success.”
–Alice Waters, Owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Founder of The Edible Schoolyard Project
“Leslie Buck offers a graciously pruned story about learning garden care in Japan, where no-one-telling you-how leads to intimately discovering for yourself what’s what—a learning that is ‘entrenched in your body.’ Leslie tells her story with charm and good humor.”
–Edward Espe Brown, Zen master, renowned chef, and author of The Tassajara Bread Book
“Leslie Buck’s compelling story brings together three themes—a woman’s journey in life, adaptation to a new and strange culture, and discovery of a career that fulfills through its challenges. The connecting threads are Japanese gardens and gardening. Gardening is both Buck’s profession and a metaphor for Buck’s reflection on her life as a cycle of planting, nourishing, and pruning to achieve rich yet balanced growth. These familiar themes feel fresh in Buck’s light yet sensitive prose that transmits her adventurous spirit yet reflective soul. Japanese gardens have long been recognized as special, almost magical, places that inspire and nourish. Leslie Buck’s memoir gives them a human dimension.”
–Kendall H. Brown, author of Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America
“Gardening in Japan is traditionally a male-dominated occupation. It is awkward and certainly not easy for Japanese women to enter, let alone a young woman from a foreign country. Leslie’s strong conviction to learn Japanese pruning enabled her to dive into this uncharted world. Most impressive of all, however, was her bold move to select Uetoh Zoen in Kyoto, one of the oldest and most highly acclaimed landscape companies in Japan, as her host gardener. The ‘secrets’ of Japanese gardening are subtly yet evidently revealed throughout the memoir, in describing such things as the way we handle pine tree branches and the way we examine and correct the performance of a novice gardener. Her undeterred enthusiasm has opened a new door for her and for her followers.”
–Sadafumi Uchiyama, head curator at Portland Japanese Garden and third-generation Japanese gardener
In well-pruned prose, Buck has written in turns a hilarious, informative, and culturally revealing tale of coming of age as a gardener. Philosophy and practice of maintaining a garden in Japan is based on giving nature the room to look natural. Those skills are widely applicable to gardening in California or anywhere. Master pruner Leslie Buck went to Japan to learn the secrets of their trade from the professional gardeners of Kyoto, and stumbled into the highly clannish guild of mostly male, mostly macho, craftsmen who didn’t know what to make of the California girl who joined their ranks.
–Liza Dalby, author of Geisha, The Tale of Murasaki
“This is an absorbing read about the formative interplay of humans, cultures, and gardens.”
–Publishers Weekly starred review
“The descriptions of the gardens the author tends while in Japan will transport readers; it is an armchair tourist’s treat to wander the temple gardens as she describes them.”
"I am not particularly interested in gardening in any way, I struggle to keep the simplest of plants alive but I have to be honest and say that I really enjoyed this book. I am a fan of reading books set in other countries because I enjoy learning about new cultures and customs and this book did not disappoint.”
“If you love losing yourself in natural settings, this memoir is definitely for you. . . . the life lessons Buck learns away from her pruning shears will appeal to any reader.”
“Buck is a natural raconteur, and excels in her descriptions of life as the female American employee of a traditional Japanese business.”
–Asian Art Brief
“Berkeley’s Leslie Buck has written a memoir about self-awareness that even a nongardener can get into…. There’s a nice rhythm to the book that coincides with the reassuring and constant pruning, clipping, and raking she does chapter by chapter in the gardens she inhabits.”