The Forgetting Tree

The Forgetting Tree - Tatjana Soli Rating = 2.5 starsTHE FORGETTING TREE begins with a tragic loss and ends with a long-delayed renewal. The bulk of the novel deals with what happens in between these two events, showing the gradual changes that become the impetus for a dramatic rebirth of sorts. The loss of ten-year-old Joshua leads to the eventual dissolution of the Baumsarg family. The mother Claire is left living alone in the family home on their California citrus farm. Her ex-husband Forster has found someone new, and daughters Gwen and Lucy can't stand to be on that isolated farm with their mother and her painful memories. Years later, breast cancer treatments require that a caregiver be found for Claire. Enter Minna, a young woman of dubious motives and questionable background. Here is where the story began to break down for me in terms of both interest and plausibility. I could not buy that Claire would just hire this girl Lucy found at a Starbucks, with no references or background checks. If Claire's tragedies and illness left her feeling frail and vulnerable, she would be LESS trusting of strangers, not more so, especially given the fact that she would be alone with this person in a remote location. And if Claire did act too hastily in hiring Minna, she would have quickly rectified her mistake when she and her neighbors compared notes and found that Minna's stories didn't add up. The premise we're meant to accept is that Claire is so needy and Minna is so exotic and interesting that Claire is just besotted, willing to let Minna call the shots, even when the house is disintegrating around them. It just didn't work for me. I can't say much more about it for fear of spoilers. I also found the reading a trifle tedious in that long stretch where Minna and Claire are living in the house together, mostly lazing around, with Minna doing her weird ritualistic stuff. It felt like I spent almost the whole book waiting for something to happen. When things DO finally start to happen close to the end, it's very dramatic and exciting and a little spooky. But it takes an awfully long time to get to that point where both Claire and Minna reach for renewal and irrevocable change. I loved Tatjana Soli's first novel, THE LOTUS EATERS, but THE FORGETTING TREE, though masterfully written, was less resonant for me. I will certainly look forward to her next book.