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The Memory Trees
by Kali Wallace
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Sorrow Lovegood returns to her Vermont orchard home after eight years away in Florida—eight years after her older sister died in a fire she can’t remember. Intertwined with Sorrow’s story are interludes from the lives of previous Lovegood women, generally full of not-great things happening. The Lovegoods and the neighboring Abrams have been feuding for generations. There’s some magical realism but it’s mostly about damage being changed and carried down over generations. ( )
A teen girl returns to her family farm to try to remember what happened when her sister died. She not only remembers but also discovers some dark family secrets. She learns a lot about both herself, her family and her neighbors while staying in Vermont.
Jumping between the past and the present, The Memory Trees tells not only Sorrow's story, but the story of the generations of women before her dealing with their own struggles at the orchard.
This book was well thought out and detailed, but it just didn't keep (or really capture) my interest at all. Magical realism is a genre that I tend to like but I had a hard time really pinning down the 'magical' part of the book.
I couldn't help but feel bad for the main character, Sorrow. I did, however, have a hard time connecting to both her and the story. It wasn't one of those books that I could actually picture myself in the main characters shoes.
The flashbacks to past women in the family when they lived on the farm was an interesting touch.
Overall I just didn't feel overly compelled to keep reading like with a good page turner. It felt a little drawn out and slow in parts. It could use a little more excitement and twists.
I would not recommend this as one of my favorites.
Alas, The Memory Trees falls on that odd line that I've found lately between something that enchanted me, and also left me slightly cold. I'll do my best to explain, I promise. It should be noted that I love Magical Realism. There's something beautiful about books that keep one foot firmly rooted in our reality, while exploring something otherworldly at the same time. In this case, I'm just not sure that Sorrow's story really accomplished that as well as I had hoped.
At the core of this story is a deep family lineage that, as is often the case, is peppered with grief and loss. The Lovegood family has never had it easy. From the moment that the first Lovegood moved onto their ancestral land, their lives have been difficult and layered. I appreciated the fact that Wallace took the time to let the reader see the vast history that surrounded Sorrow's childhood home. It's easy to see how one event can echo through history, and even affect the present in ways that might not be completely obvious. The stories that were told rooted me in the Lovegood's lives like nothing else could.
The downside to this way of writing though, is that it's rough to really settle into. Although I felt for Sorrow, and understood her anger at what she had lost, I couldn't quite step into her shoes and really become her. There were portions of this story that, while I could see that I should be feeling grief or hatred or anger, all I felt was a missing connection. It's a little tough to explain, but I felt like I was being told this story by someone far removed rather than someone who had actually experienced this. Additionally, I felt like the Magical Realism wasn't really coming through as strongly as it could have. There were small elements of mystery and magic, but they didn't feel as fleshed out as I would have liked. I wish I could have felt more of the magic that Sorrow was meant to feel. Try as I might though, it never stuck.
As you can see, I'm of two minds about this book. The Memory Trees has great bones. The family history here is vast, and gives this book something that I'd been missing. It gives it roots. On the flip side, I never felt fully connected with our protagonist and that made things tough. What I can say is that the audio book version of this is definitely perfection. The narrator that was chosen has a voice that pins down that ethereal quality, and really brings the ghostly Lovegood family to life. So, my final suggestion is just to read this! If you're in love with rich familial ties, wide open country land, and stories that pull you into the life of someone unlike you, this is a book for you.
"When darkness fell she poured rivers of tears into the wood and soil and stone beneath her, a well of loneliness that felt as though it would never run dry."
The Memory Trees was most definitely my kinda jam. Set in Vermont during summer. 16-year-old Sorrow grieves the loss of her only sister, Patience, and wrestles with the inability to remember the details of Patience's death some eight years earlier. Sorrow's relationship with her mother, Verity, is a fragile one, yet Sorrow knows she can't hide from her memories much longer nor is she completely ready to face the truth.
The magical realism in The Memory Trees is subtle and comes alive through Wallace's imagery. (You'll probably crave an apple or cider at least once.) I could feel the frost in July, smell all the green. Lush is the word that repeatedly comes to mind.
And I loved the flashbacks to the stories of the other women in Sorrow's family - yes, going back 12 generations, all the way to the Lovegood matriarch, Rejoice.
Recommended if you enjoy magical realism that centers a feud between two founding families of a small rural town, multiple generations of independent women dating back to the 18th century, women accused of being witches - only to stand up in the face of harassment and murder, and a hopeful if not a little bittersweet ending.
Also, if you liked Of Sorrow and Such or The Night Sister, you'll probably enjoy this one.
So close to a perfect read!
"Patience had understood something Sorrow had been too young to grasp: the stories were never just stories, and history was never only in the past. If they echoed loudly enough, those long-dead spites and long-buried hatreds, they weren't legacy but a cage--and she had wanted out."
Literary Merit: Excellent
Level: High School to Adult
A lyrically written novel that transitions between historical and modern fiction flawlessly.
The main character, Sorrow, travels back to her family homestead for the first time after being away for 8 years following the death of her older sister. She goes to recover memories of the night of her sister's death that have been nothing but blank holes in her mind all these years.
This book is about so many things, family, history, love, death, mental illness and how to cope when all these aspects are so tightly intertwined into who we are.
This book was very well written, to the point that you didn't mind the slow parts since the writing was done so well.
I do think that this book will only appeal to some teens, this isn't a book for the timid YA reader. The appeal will be for those teens who like history or are really into literature. It would also be a great offer to an adult who is reluctant to read YA because of preconceived notions about YA literary merit.
A darkly magical novel about a mysterious family legacy, the bonds of sisterhood, and the strange and powerful ways we are shaped by the places we call home, from the critically acclaimed author of Shallow Graves. For the first eight years of her life, an unusual apple orchard in Vermont is Sorrow Lovegood's whole world. The land has been passed down through generations of brave, resilient women, and while their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople--especially their neighbors, the Abrams family--Sorrow and her family take pride in its odd history. Then one winter night, an unthinkable tragedy changes everything. In the aftermath, Sorrow is sent to Miami to live with her father, away from the only home she's ever known. Now sixteen, Sorrow's memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn more about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. But it soon becomes clear that some of her questions have difficult--even dangerous--answers. And there may be a price to pay for asking.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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