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The Red Tree

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  2,180 Ratings  ·  344 Reviews
Sarah Crowe left Atlanta, and the remnants of a tumultuous relationship, to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant-a parapsychologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on a desolate corner of the property. And as the gnarled tree takes root in her imagination, Sarah
Paperback, 385 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Ace (first published July 10th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 21, 2011 Steve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, horror
I have admired Caitlin Kiernan's short stories for some time now, so I was excited about finally getting to one of her novels. I wasn't disappointed. The Red Tree is a very ambitious effort, an accomplished metafiction that is certainly horrific, but also stands as a piece of literature. It's a damn shame the book is saddled with some of the worst, and most misleading, cover art I've seen in some time. (It's packaged as a YA novel, with a brooding goth chick on the front. If I were to rate this, ...more
Michael Fierce
No offence to the illustrator of the officially published cover but here is the more appropriate cover that better represents the content & soul of the book.

Bark's Book Nonsense
Nov 04, 2009 Bark's Book Nonsense rated it it was amazing
Sarah Crowe is a writer suffering from writer's block after her relationship with her girlfriend comes to a devastating end. She decides to rent an isolated old farm house out in the boonies of Rhode Island to recover and hide from the world.

Whilst poking around in the home she comes across an old typewriter which eventually leads her to a manuscript obsessing on the red tree on the property written by a previous renter who committed suicide on the grounds. Sarah begins to have increasingly stra
David Wilson
Mar 06, 2010 David Wilson rated it it was amazing
There are few things that terrify me more than the thought of my brain ceasing to function properly. I can imagine dozens of truly horrifying situations and experiences I might be forced to endure, but I know from simple moments where I can’t remember a name, or a word that I should be intimately familiar with, that if I had to question my own sanity, or worry that others were questioning it, I’d be off the ledge and free-falling pretty quickly.

In The Red Tree, Caitlin Kiernan delivers exactly t
Matt Schiariti
Nov 19, 2012 Matt Schiariti rated it did not like it
I was pulled in by the good reviews...

and left disappointed....Let me preface this by saying I don't mind character driven stories. I don't mind moody and atmospheric stories that can sometimes leave the reader with more questions than answers. I don't need everything spelled out. In the world of creepy novels, sometimes the less that's said, the better because the imagination takes off and can creep you out more than what's written.

All of that being said, I was bored to tears and completely not
Feb 21, 2011 Erin rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
I wanted to like this more than I did. A glance through the other negative/ambivalent reviews shows a lot of disappointment in harsh language, and more than a touch of thinly-veiled homophobia - let me say now, clearly and unequivocally: those were not my issues with this book. I think the narrator's (Sarah's) voice got to me, which made it difficult to enjoy the book, since it's written in the form of her journal. She should be an incredibly sympathetic character - within the first few pages, y ...more
May 31, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it
Writer Sarah Crowe came north to Rhode Island to try to forget an upsetting relationship that had a tragic end. Hoping that a change of location will cure her writer's block, she rents an old house with a huge red oak tree several hundred years old sitting at the edge of the property. In the dank basement Sarah finds an unfinished manuscript written by a professor who had been investigating the horrific local legends about the great tree. He added to the historical lore when he hung himself from ...more
Jul 17, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing
A haunting, beautifully-wrought exercise in uncertainty that pushes just about every button I have when it comes to tension, horror, and the supernatural. Kiernan hates to be called a "horror" writer, and while part of me sypmathizes the rest of me doesn't give a damn. "Horror" wouldn't be a shame to be associated with if it were primarily identified with this sort of multi-faceted and subtle work. This is a gobsmackingly good study of stress, illness, inevitability, folklore, haunted places, an ...more
Derek Pegritz
Aug 26, 2009 Derek Pegritz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone I know.
Shelves: lovecraftian
Please ignore the god-awful, "paranormal romance" cover art. This book is not even VAGUELY romantic...though it certainly is paranormal. Cait Kiernan is one of my favourite authors, and this is beyond any shadow of a doubt her best book since Threshold, the first of her longer works I'd ever read. The Red Tree is a swirling, delerious, and very troubling descent into the same realm of New England horror first mapped out by Hawthorne and H. P. Lovecraft--but, unlike their works, this one has no t ...more
Apr 15, 2013 Clare rated it it was ok
I've not read a Caitlin Kiernan book in a long time, and was quite nostalgically going back, hoping to find something spooky and dark and poetic. It has those elements, which is why it has some stars, but little else to it - as if that is all the author has relied upon and has eschewed a cohesive story, structure and credible characters. This book has rave reviews from so many, but I cannot get at all what they're talking about. To me, it meanders and rambles in an incoherent fashion around the ...more
Feb 20, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
I once had a girlfriend who had a bit of a clairvoyance/psychic kind of vibe going on. One night in the middle of sleep she wakes, bolt upright in bed and I do too, stuck in that groggy place between the two. "My grandfather is here." And I agreed, as I had no idea what she was talking about, so I took a survey of my surroundings. I shit you not, there, in the corner of the room, is a shape blacker than the inky darkness of the room. I see it, and pull the covers over my head. "What the fuck is ...more
Oct 17, 2010 Marvin rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
I've been meaning to try a book by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I chose this one because I need a novel with "Red" in the title for a reading challenge. We Goodreads people pick books for the stupidest reasons, don't we?


So I finished the novel and I'm not sure if this is typical Kiernan. It has many of the traits I've been warned about including the wandering off-topic and obligatory lesbian sex. But it reads like more of a tribute to a style of horror story that might be described "Unreli
Adam Nevill
Dec 24, 2014 Adam Nevill rated it really liked it
A compelling epistolary tale of a woman coming apart in an old house steeped in ghastly folklore and legend. Really enjoyed and admired the entwining of historical documents with the strangeness of the unfolding drama in the story. For fans of Picnic at Hanging Rock the picnic scene here and some of the dream sequences are marvellous. New Years resolution for 2015 - must read the other Kiernan novels I haven't yet read.
Aug 27, 2015 James rated it it was amazing
Simply put, a masterpiece of Weird Fiction. Like Poe and Ligotti I've long felt that horror/Weird Fiction was best suited to the short story format, and I can think of very few novels in that genre that totally succeed in any way, shape or form, but this one is really ingenious. The atmosphere generated by the novel was extremely claustrophobic (most of it takes place in a house in the wilds of Rhode Island), and I like that Kiernan wears her influences on her sleeve: there's an exhaustive list ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Melanti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, let's start with the worst.

What on earth was the cover artist and artist thinking?! This is possibly the WORST imaginable cover possible for the book. It makes it like some generic, broody urban fantasy or paranormal romance when it's far from that.

It's straight up psychological horror - with a 44 year old heroine, not a late teen/20ish one with too much eye makeup.

If I hadn't already been familiar with Kiernan from her more recent book The Drowning Girl, I never would have given this volum
Jul 31, 2013 Simon rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
After managing to overcome my extreme distaste for the cover (possibly the worst horror cover I've ever encountered) I plunged into the novel not knowing what to expect but trusting the judgement of the person who recommended it to me.

This story managed to maintain a healthy respect for the traditions and writers of classic weird horror whilst not being overly derivative. It felt very modern. Many great authors and works were referenced, both within the narrative itself, and in the acknowledgeme
Dec 11, 2008 Terence rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Kiernan fans, fans of psychological horror (a la Shirley Jackson)
Shelves: horror-gothic
Rating: between 3.0 and 3.5

I'm going to echo some of the other reviewers on this site and agree that this is one of Kiernan's better novels (though all of her stuff, that I've read, is good and highly recommended). As is true of her earlier work, it's never certain that what the narrator narrates is what happens, and our narrator's (Sarah Crowe) mental and physical capacities are always in doubt. As she often concedes in the course of this first-person tale.

It reminds me of Sylvia Townsend Warne
Orrin Grey
Jun 10, 2010 Orrin Grey rated it really liked it
Basically, The Red Tree is a masterpiece of suggestion. If I had to show someone an illustration of how suggestion builds up the supernatural, this might be the first book I handed them. The events that actually unfold directly on the page don't really amount to a whole lot, but the buildup of folklore, stories, quotations, background, etc. create an atmosphere that makes the suggestion of whats going on seem increasingly potent and cosmic in scope.

Kiernan is, in some ways, an author whose work
Feb 27, 2012 Terri rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Written manuscript style, this story deals with a writer who is stuck, whose lover commited suicide who finds a manuscript written by the previous tenant about an ancient tree on the property and the history and legends associated with it. Mysterious things happen and she is more and more drawn into something evil. Powerful and fascianting wordplay makes the story even more intense
I'm not sure why I didn't read this sooner; Kiernan is one of my favorite writers, and though I generally like her short stories better than her novels, this one is an exception. Spooky and affecting, this story takes a tree (not very scary in itself, right?) and turns it into a tale of ancient evil--a haunted house, place, and time.
Dec 30, 2014 Zach rated it really liked it
Sarah Crowe, mid-list author of fantasy novels and short stories, has left Atlanta after a bitter breakup (culminating in the suicide of her ex-girlfriend) and decamped to the middle of nowhere in Rhode Island. Unfortunately for her (but fortunately for Kiernan’s reader), the house she’s rented has a troubling history that centers on an enormous red tree set nearby, linked to centuries of sacrifice, hauntings, werewolves, and death. Much of this history is relayed through - what else? - a manusc ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Hannah rated it liked it
Often I read books or watch films, and the momentum pulls me forward enough that I overlook plotholes or pacing problems. This is all well and good, but then in hindsight I realise what the problems were, and I no longer enjoy it at the same level. For me The Red Tree provoked the opposite effect: I enjoyed it more in retrospect, and now feel pretty fond of it.

The story begins with an editor writing a preface about the troubled narrator Sarah Crowe. This lays hints about her unreliability while
Oct 28, 2010 Chibineko rated it really liked it
I'll warn you- if you are looking for something that is more akin to a Stephen King-esque "Pennywise is jumping out of the sewer" type of scary story, then you'll be best to avoid this book. This book's scares are more psychological than anything else.

That said, the premise of the book intrigued me. It follows Sarah, an author with a huge case of writer's block who decides to rent out an old farmhouse close to a spooky red oak tree growing close by it. With the beginning of the book starting fro
Allison Floyd
Sep 08, 2009 Allison Floyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Nov 14, 2013 Jayaprakash Satyamurthy rated it it was amazing
wow. I'm going to read this again in a day or two. Kiernan knows the weird inside out but she's doesn't just draw on her extensive knowledge of the genre. peppered with references to other stories and to folklore, this is still a very original, uncanny novel that adds to the tradition instead of just drawing on it.
Oct 15, 2009 MG rated it it was amazing
Sarah’s editor, Sharon Halperin, opens the story. In a bold move, the reader is told in the editor’s preface that our main character will not survive this tale. We are given just a bit of background from the editor’s point of view, serving to anchor the story with a sense of reality. Ms. Halperin offers her observations about the house and the red oak tree. If she is to be believed, the house is simply old and musty, the tree is just a tree, and well Sarah was troubled to the point of becoming s ...more
Based on the reviews, I should have loved this but I didn't!

The preface written by Sarah's editor intrigued me but the diary entries were enough to put me off and I had to force myself through the rest of the book.

I found the story to meander and I really didn't like Sarah at all which is why I think I struggled with this.

Would I recommend it? No, I'd hate for anyone else to be as disappointed as I was.
Feb 16, 2013 Ctgt rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ctgt by: Terry Weyna
Shelves: horror, weird
I'm not a prolific horror reader but I like to dabble every once in awhile. I loved all of Stephen King's early work but bailed about halfway through his catalog and have read some Clive Barker but am really more of a classic horror fan primarily Lovecraft and Poe. I picked up this book based on a recommendation (thanks Terry) and was pleasantly surprised when I read the author notes. She acknowledges inspiration from a variety of sources including Lovecraft and Poe as well as Peter Straub, Shir ...more
Oct 04, 2016 Maija rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, horror
4.5 stars
Whew. Good stuff. Psychological horror with a great atmosphere.
Jul 23, 2009 Kelly rated it really liked it
What a strange book! Then again, I know never to expect the expected when reading Caitlin R. Kiernan.

The story centers on Sarah Crowe, a writer who moves to an isolated house in Rhode Island after her lover's death. Beset by writer's block, she finds herself unable to write the novel her contract demands, and instead becomes obsessed with an old manuscript she finds in the basement. This manuscript was written by a previous tenant of the house who died before he could complete it, and is a colle
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Urban Fantasy Afi...: The Red Tree - Michelle's Choice 15 58 Nov 15, 2012 01:10PM  
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Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan (born 26 May 1964) is the author of science fiction and dark fantasy works, including ten novels; many comic books; and more than two hundred published short stories, novellas, and vignettes. She is also the author of scientific papers in the field of paleontology.

(from Wikipedia)
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“I am usually at my most brutally forthright when making shit up. That's the paradox of me.” 6 likes
“No one we knew ever believed that there was anything between us but the sex and some virulent allure, my dirty dishwater circling the drain of you. Not a pretty comparison but maybe it's the best we'll ever deserve, either of us.” 5 likes
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