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The Red Tree

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  1,642 ratings  ·  275 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 ...more
Paperback, 385 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Roc (first published July 10th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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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
Bark's Book Nonsense
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
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
♍ichael Ƒierce
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.

Feb 21, 2011 Erin rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
Derek Pegritz
Dec 04, 2013 Derek Pegritz rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Jan 10, 2014 Tim rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Matt Schiariti
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
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
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
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
Orrin Grey
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
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
Adam Nevill
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.
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 21, 2010 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
A haunting, poetic piece of work that is meant to provoke, frighten, and disturb, The Red Tree deserves much more attention than it will probably get. The cover (which the author didn't like) appears to make it easy to categorize--paranormal romance.

Instead, the work is a highly poetic description of a descent into madness provoked, in part, by her narrator's sudden move from Atlanta to an old farmhouse in Rhode Island. But that's just my interpretation. It could be that the author meant for us
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
This was my first book by the author and I have to say I was captivated by the story and will surely read more of Kiernan's work.

The story is a first person narrative, written in the form of a diary. The narrator is Sarah Crowe, a middle-aged author, who takes up residence in an old, lonely farm house in New England, in order to flee the memories of her girlfriends recent suicide. She hopes to write a new novel and enjoy the solitude. Writer's block has her in its clutches though and Sarah begin
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
Jeannie Sloan
I couldn't decide whether I just liked this book or loved it but after sleeping on it I think that I made up my mind.
I've read some of her short stories before which caused me to pick up this book from Amazon. That and the almost universal praise for the book. I can't say that I have ever read a novel quite like this before. Yes, it was lyrical and the descriptions of things were extraordinary. I did feel like I was in the room with the main protagonist through out reading the book.I also found
This latest and much anticipated book by Caitlin R. Kiernan is some of her best work yet. The Red Tree is presented as a journal written by the author Sarah Crowe after she rents a remote farm house, in order to have solitude to write, and discovers an old typewriter and an unfinished manuscript by the house's previous tenant; Charles L. Harvey. Mr. Harvey was putting together something of a coherent history of a huge red oak tree on the property surrounding the farm house. The history of the tr ...more
H. P. Lovecraft was a writer who managed to overcome his faults (frequently racist overtones and often stiff language) and evoke an atmosphere of dread and despair that turns even the hottest summer day into something dark and chilling. Many writers have written works based on the mythos of Lovecraft, many others have written clever homages to his fiction (see “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” by Neil Gaiman) but few, if any, manage to capture or even expound upon the atmosphere of horror and fear of th ...more
Mar 06, 2012 Anna rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: horror
The story is written as Sarah's journal, colouring the pages with her flawed perspective, and in fact a false editor's preface introduces the work as the posthumous ramblings of the novelist in the final months of her life. In journal form, it's a very different reading experience than a more traditional novel. The narrator is unreliable, and grows steadily more so as the story continues. There are big holes wherein the reader is expected to extrapolate, as best they can, what happened, what may ...more
First of all I should state Caitlin R. Kiernan can definately write. I did like her style and narrative voice. I would recommend this to most readers of horror even though not everyone will like it. One of those books that even though it didn't end up being a favorite I'm glad I read it. However the plot itself was almost completely missing. And what was there I have seen before and nothing was a surprise. Even though I liked the voice of the writer I didn't like Sarah. And I got the feeling Kie ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
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.
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Urban Fantasy Afi...: The Red Tree - Michelle's Choice 15 55 Nov 15, 2012 01:10PM  
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“I am usually at my most brutally forthright when making shit up. That's the paradox of me.” 5 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.” 3 likes
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