The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli
St. Martin's Press, 2012
Fiction; 416 pgs
I have put off writing this review for days now, unsure about what to say or even how to start. Tatjana Soli's writing is exquisite. Imagine sitting comfortably in a boat on a calm lake, drifting freely. When I sat down to read her book, I lost all sense of time and place--I was transported into the pages and onto a citrus farm in Southern California.
It is near impossible to describe this book. I hadn't read anything about it before going into it. Having read and loved the author's book, The Lotus Eaters, two years ago, I knew I had to read The Forgetting Tree as soon as it came out. What little I did know about the book was that it would be an emotional read. I just didn'r realize how much so. Per the author's website:
When Claire Nagy marries Forster Baumsarg, the only son of prominent California citrus ranchers, she knows she's consenting to a life of hard work, long days, and worry-fraught nights. But her love for Forster is so strong, she turns away from her literary education and embraces the life of the ranch, succumbing to its intoxicating rhythms and bounty until her love of the land becomes a part of her. Not even the tragic, senseless death of her son Joshua at kidnappers' hands, her alienation from her two daughters, or the dissolution of her once-devoted marriage can pull her from the ranch she's devoted her life to preserving.
But despite having survived the most terrible of tragedies, Claire is about to face her greatest struggle: An illness that threatens not only to rip her from her land but take her very life. And she's chosen a caregiver, the enigmatic Caribbean-born Minna, who may just be the darkest force of all.
Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together.
Having grown up in California most of my life, it isn't too hard to imagine the place Soli writes about. I imagine my husband would have an even better picture of it--his grandparents having orchards of their own at one time. The land can be bountiful and beautiful and yet harsh just the same. I can see why Claire would be attracted to the life she chose. And I could relate to Claire's desire to put down roots, to settle down in one place and make it more than just a home. After the death of her son, the land took on a different meaning--its hold on her even stronger. For others in her family, it had the opposite effect, causing them to want to get away. Tragedy affects us all in different ways. Tatjana Soli captures that well in her novel.
One of the elements that touched me the most was Claire's relationship with her daughters, particularly after she was diagnosed with cancer. The physical distance between them--as well as the emotional. It made me long for my own mother and wish I didn't live so far away from her. In some ways, I could relate to Claire's daughter Gwen, busy with her own life--and it made me sad.
I thought I knew what book I was reading, but then Minna walked into the picture and everything changed. I felt the lure of her just as surely as Claire did, mesmerized by her story--her character. Not quite sure if she was exactly who she said she was, knowing she had her secrets and wondering how that would play out. The author was so subtle in her approach to this particular part of the book. Minna and Claire--their relationship, Claire's illness--I was witnessing first hand as their story unfolded. Scared, sad, angry, and confused. I felt what the characters were feeling.
Soli has a way of getting to the heart of the matter, bringing her characters deepest emotions and darkest secrets to the surface. They are often raw and heart wrenching. It was no different in The Forgetting Tree. I wasn't sure I would be able to get far in the book initially, the sadness in the book soaking into my pores. I'm not exactly in a place right now where reading sad books is such a good idea.
And yet . . . And yet the beauty of the writing. The characters. I couldn't put the book down. I wanted to--needed to--know more. Claire is such an interesting character. There is no simple way to describe her. Just as there is no easy way to describe dear Minna, whose own story is heartbreaking and powerful. The climax of the novel itself was powerful and moving.
Least you think the book was all sadness, it wasn't. There was an undercurrent of hope and strength that shined through now and then. And in the end.
I walked away from this book not sure how I felt about it. Did I like it? I knew I loved the writing. The story left me in a thoughtful place for several days after I finished it. And really, until sitting down to write this review, I still wasn't sure. The Forgetting Tree moved me and was another reminder of why I love reading so much.
To learn more about Tatjana Soli and her books, please visit the author's website.
I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Forgetting Tree on the TLC Book Tours route!
Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of The Forgetting Tree provided by publisher.
This book counts towards the What's in a Name Challenge and The Eclectic Reading Challenge.
© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Great review, Wendy! I enjoyed reading The Lotus Eaters so much! I'll be sure to add this book to my to-buy list!ReplyDelete
Melody - Thank you! Tatjana Soli is such a gifted writer. I think you'd like this one too!Delete
Books that are emotional to read are the best. Yes, they can leave you feeling sad and even drained, but they're so well written, they're worth it, if you ask me.ReplyDelete
Kathy - Some of the best books I've read packed quite the emotional punch, that's for sure.Delete
I thought The Lotus Eaters was amazing, so I am very glad that this second novel is just as beautiful. Not sure I'm ready for a sad novel right now, but this one is definitely on my to-read-in-the-future list.ReplyDelete
Carrie - The Lotus Eaters is one of my all time favorite books. I recommend it to everyone. :-) I think you'll enjoy this one when you get to it.Delete
I'm kicking myself for not signing up for this tour. I loved The Lotus Eaters, too, and this book sounds fantastic. Great review!ReplyDelete
Anna - That's how I felt about the recent Thrity Umrigar tour. Hopefully I will get to her latest soon.Delete
I think you'd really like The Forgetting Tree!
Oh man. I knew this book was coming out, but didn't hear anything about the tour. I LOVED The Lotus Eaters...totally a five star read for me. Our book club read it and we even talked to Tatjana. I am going to have to get my hands on this and make time to read it.ReplyDelete
Sandy - The Lotus Eaters was a five start book for me too. Sooo good. How neat that your book club got to talk with the author! I wish I could have been there.Delete
Oh! I didn't know that Tatjana Soli had another book out. I'm in the middle of reading The Lotus Eaters and loving it. Great review!ReplyDelete
Lisa - To be reading The Lotus Eaters for the first time again . . . I am glad you are loving it so far.Delete
I'll read this when I won't mind a very sad book. The writing is exquisite, you say, and I'm curious about Minna.ReplyDelete
Harvee Lau - It's definitely one of those books best read when your are in the right mood for it. It's worth it though.Delete
I think a book that leaves you thoughtful is one of the best kinds of books there are. I loved The Lotus Eaters, and can't wait to read this one. You did it great justice with your review.ReplyDelete
Heather - I think so too, and this one definitely did that. I think I still preferred The Lotus Eaters, but this one was really good as well.Delete
Great review! I will have to add this to my reading list :)ReplyDelete
Chauntelle - Thanks! I hope you like it if you do read it. :-)Delete
I'm reading this right now for my tour date in two weeks, so I admit I just skimmed your review (didn't want to be unduly influenced :-)), but I am glad to know that you found it so affecting! Tatjana Soli really is a heck of a writer.ReplyDelete
Florinda - I am anxious to read your thoughts on it when you finish and post your review. I love the author's writing.Delete
Wow, what a review! I want to read this now simply for the descriptions you mention, and for all the characters as well of course.ReplyDelete
Thanks for being on the tour!
Heather - Thanks! You can tell this book really got to me.Delete
I've really been looking forward to this one and glad to hear it lived up to your expectations. I loved The Lotus Eaters, too. I got a little nervous when I started the review - thought you couldn't write the review because you didn't like the book!ReplyDelete
Lisa - Honestly, I didn't know how the review would turn out when I began writing. I wasn't sure what I thought at first--and that made it hard to write the review.Delete
Oh, wow. This sounds like a fabulous novel. You've written a lovely review that has convinced me to buy a copy. I love the cover art, but it's the story that has me intrigued. I spent 20 years of my childhood in Southern California and my husband remembers living in L.A. (the Valley) when there were still orange groves. I suspect it will be quite an emotional read, but often times, those prove to be the best books. Guess I should get The Lotus Eaters, too, huh?ReplyDelete
Les - Thank you! I hope you like it when you do read it. I really like the way the author is able to bring her characters and the story to life.Delete
The Lotus Eaters is a special favorite of mine, so if you get a chance to read it--I highly recommend it!
Two more books for my mental tbr pile!ReplyDelete
Jennifer- Just what you need, I know. LOL I don't think I'll ever get to all the books on my wish list.Delete
A book that sticks with you days later is a good one. Not sure I can handle anything even remotely sad right now. It's amazing how fragile my mood seems when I read anything sad. This too shall pass :)ReplyDelete
Stacy - I know what you mean. Had I known, I think I would have put off reading this one awhile. Still, I liked it so it couldn't have been a completely bad time to read it, right? It did leave me feeling sad for awhile though. Now I'm being more careful.Delete