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The Crying Tree

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,617 ratings  ·  543 reviews
Irene Stanley thought her world had come to an end when her son Shep was murdered during a robbery at their home. 19 years later, Shep's killer is placed on death row, awaiting a date for execution. Irene, having reached the brink of suicide, now realizes that she needs to face the secrets that surround her son's murder.
Paperback, 353 pages
Published September 4th 2009 by MacMillan (first published January 1st 2009)
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A novel about a mother's journey from hatred to forgiveness of her son's murderer is a good idea. However, if that novel is weighed down by stereotypes and one-note characters, it becomes really hard to get through. For example, Rakha paints all her conservative characters as uneducated bigots. In case the reader cannot figure that out on her own, the author makes sure any character that likes President Bush or is for the war uses broken English and calls his or her parents "ma" and "pa". On the ...more
Any book that I stay up reading until 2 a.m. deserves five stars. I hadn't done that since Harry Potter 7 came out...and I had jet lag then because we were in Hawaii.

I heard Rakha being interviewed on NPR and knew I had to read her book. A broadcast journalist for "All Things Considered" and an Oregonian, she covered the first execution in Oregon for 30 years, and the seed of this book was planted.

I'm fascinated by the themes of deep forgiveness and grace, perhaps because I wonder whether I woul
Lydia Presley
"You ever done that? Forgiven someone even thought they don't deserve it?"

"No," Mason said. "No, I've never done that."

"Well, I got to say, it fills you. Whether you want it to or not, that kind of thing, it just fills you. It's like pain and grace all tied up in one."

That's what this book was to me, pain and grace all tied up in one. Putting aside all of the political aspects it touched on (the war in Iraq, homosexuality, the death penalty) it pretty much transcended above these things and spok
This book was written by a journalist after she covered the first execution in Oregon in 30 years. It was the result of her interviews with death-row inmates, their victims and those hired to carry out their sentences. The theme of the book is forgiveness, which is no small thing for any author, or any human being for that matter, to tackle. The story is well written and thought out. The character development is excellent, and there is a sub-story that weaves smoothly into the thread of the main ...more
Brilliant book. I cried, I questioned my parenting, my beliefs, my feelings, my integrity - everything I thought I knew about capital punishment, parenting, America was turned on its head.

It took me a few chapters to get in to the book and I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it but after the first 100 pages I was gripped. Some bits are predictable, some bit you think are predictable really aren't what you think. Lots of thinks left unanswered but they don't need an answer!

I had to keep reminding myse
I absolutely loved this book. I didn't predict the plot correctly - always a plus - and there was so much to think about. I liked the characters and the writing was phenomenal; you could feel the various emotions each character endured and empathize with everyone's position. The Crying Tree reminded me of the Green Mile, but expanded further on the topic of capital punishment, as well as addressing homosexuality, abuse, prejudice... excellent read!
Even though I have alredy sent this, I am updating for my Best of 2009 list:

Unbeknownst to her family, Irene starts corresponding with her son’s murderer waiting on death row and is devastated when notified of an execution date even though the rest of the family is ecstatic. This is an amazing first novel by a Silverton, Oregon author and perfect for book groups.

More from previous review:
After a move from Illinois to central Oregon, Irene and Nate’s teen son, Shep, is killed by what appears to b
Naseem Rakha has written a sad, wrenching tale of a family's reaction to and subsequent dealing with the murder of their sixteen year old son and brother. She has skillfully delved into the emotional impact for each of them. Many surprising events evolve through the subsequent years in the telling of this story.

Although I enjoyed this book and was eager to discover how the story concluded, I thought that occasionally the plot could have moved along more smoothly.
The Crying Tree is about what happens to a close knit family when their son Shep Stanley is shot and killed in their home during a botched burglary attempt. After his death, Irene (his mother), Nate (his father) and younger sister Bliss are forced to deal not only with Shep's death, but their feelings of hatred towards the person who supposedly shot him. This book is written mainly from Irene's viewpoint. Eventually, after a self-destructive phase, Irene comes to realize that the murderer is not ...more
Obnoxious. I guess I liked the overall concept of this book, but I thought the dialog and characters were terrible, stereotyped and just not believable. The other thing that really bothered me was how the author's main objective seemed to be to hit you over the head with her world view, in particular:

- Christians are hypocritical and ignorant
- Conservatives are stupid and evil

It didn't surprise me that this author works for NPR. I also thought it was strange how often the characters "wiped their
Naseem Rakha's the Crying Tree was one of those books that kept me up until 2am for two days in a row. The story is about a Midwestern family whose teenage boy has been killed. It is also about the demise of one's self, one’s family and the miraculous wonder of healing. To say this book is just about forgiveness is an bleak understatement, for me, reading this book was almost like watching a flower bloom, but instead of the opening petals came the unveiling of secrets, hidden pockets of grace, a ...more
Maggie Donaldson
On the face of it, this is a good read - a well-crafted story with a few twists and turns that will keep you hooked. We need to invent a new genre for the books that chart a parent's (usually a mother's) devastation at losing a child, usually in violent circumstances. There is a rash of them, and they make for painful reading. This one is no exception, and the microscopic examination of the effect on the mother, her husband and her daughter, is very well handled. Rakha slowly reveals her charact ...more
I'm in fact giving this book a 3.5. As much as anything, this book is about change--change as time passes, changing of how we see, what we see and what we think we see, changes in our feelings as our vision adjusts, and so on. This book tells the story of Shep, shot to death at 15, his family, who cannot recover from this, and his convicted murderer who is about to be electrocuted after 19 years in prison, mostly on death row. Shep's mother, Irene, is the most emotionally available character in ...more

Imagine yourself in the early 1970's. A time when bell bottoms, mini skirts and platform shoes ruled the fashion world. The birth of Aerosmith, Kiss and the Ramones took center stage in the music world. A time of political awakening. Now imagine yourself knowing nothing about this and living in an isolated town in Oregon. You are living what appears to be the American dream – married, two kids (one boy, one girl), etc.... But, then tragedy strikes and what you love most in the world is taken fro
Jen C (ReadinginWBL)
Title: The Crying Tree
Author: Naseem Rakha
Pages: 353 pages
Publisher: Broadway; First Edition edition (July 7, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0767931408

Book Description from Book: Irene and Nate Stanley are living a quiet and contented life with their two children, Bliss and Shep, on their family farm in southern Illinois when Nate suddenly announces he’s been offered a job as a deputy sheriff in Oregon. Irene fights her husband. She does not want to uproot her family and has deep misgivings about the move. Never
Fifteen-year-old Shep Stanley is shot and killed in what appears to be a home robbery. During the time of the shooting, it was believed that Irene and Nate, Shep's parents, and Bliss, Shep's sister were not home. Trying to find their way through the gut-wrenching grief leads each member of the family down a different path, coping with grief in their own ways.

Irene seems to have the most difficult time, almost becoming an alcoholic and a zombie, and not caring what goes on around her or what is
In The Crying Tree Naseem Rakha tells the story of a family destroyed by tragedy and fueled by emotion and vengeance, a mother, father and daughter trying desperately to find a way to live beyond their loss, and failing miserably. Individual grief makes them strangers to one another, allowing secrets to lie dormant for years and forcing each to live alone within the family unit.

When the killer's execution is finally scheduled, Irene is faced with emotions she never expected - she hated this man
By the middle of the book, I began to enjoy the story because I had a sense of where it might be going. It wasn't until I saw the "procedures" through Tab Mason's eyes, that I felt what the author was trying to express about capital punishment. She humanized a process that many avoid thinking about.

The story was very compelling and yet I had a difficult time reading it. While I became deeply interested in the stories of a handful of secondary characters who were fleshed out halfway through the
The Crying Tree is about what happens to a family when their son dies in a horrible accident. Teenager Shep Stanley is shot and killed in his own home during a botched burglary attempt. After his death, his parents and younger sister Bliss are forced to deal not only with Shep's death, but their feelings of hatred towards the person who shot him. Eventually, they come to realize that the murderer is not what he seems, and has some secrets of his own that will impact the family forever.

I thought
Irene and Nate have two children, Bliss and Shep. The father wants to move to another town because he finds out his son is gay but doesn't tell Shep's mother or anyone else in the family. He is totally in a rage over this. He tries to keep his boy Shep and his lover Daniel apart. But when he finds them together a tragedy takes place and Shep gets killed. The lover is to blame, but it takes years to find out that this may not have been the case. They may have sent a innocent teenager to prison an ...more
Theresa Sivelle
What an amazing book and story. I understand the need to forgive and I thought the book did a great job in showing how important and hard that is. It is a powerful thing that you do for yourself, not for the one who caused the harm. I also believe that it is a process that everyone has to go through in their own way and time. Those that don't get to the forgiving part, I think are destined to an unhappy existence that can be both mentally and physically unhealthy. I have to say that I loved all ...more
My first Goodreads win - looking forward to reading it.

The Crying Tree is an emotionally powerful book. The tragedy of a son's death is a wrecking ball that tears down the structure and being of a family, a mother, father, and daughter. The rebuilding of these lives leads the reader down jagged and twisting paths as the mother, the most fully developed character, gains internal strength and stability from an unexpected source. I had an increasingly difficult time with what seemed to be a lack of
A tragedy told completely and exceptionally well. A 5 rating for the writing skill; a 4 rating for the story. The character development is outstanding. Each character is not only completely described but continually developed throughout the book. Each sentence has depth of meaning; each paragraph is a joy to read. I felt I knew each person completely not just the main characters but even the murdered son and other sub-characters. The lack of communication and emotional withdrawal of the characte ...more
Jess Penhallow
Its a good thing that when I finished this book on a long flight everyone around me was sleeping because I balled my eyes out at the end! Its a beautifully crafted and highly emotional book that makes you feel strongly for all the characters and think about things like justice and forgiveness.
Somehow this book kept me turning pages, in spite of the fact that I found the writing to be less than stellar, the characters to be somewhat stereotypical and the plot to be predictable. Yet there were moments where the writing took off and I did like how the author portrayed the different family members in their struggles, isolated from each other even though they shared lives and shared the tragedy. I liked the theme of forgiveness, of secrets, of redemption(and appreciated reading in the aft ...more
This was a suggestion at book group, but it wasn't chosen. I had read it when it first was issued and remembered I liked it and some of the basics, but I wanted to read it again. And I was very happy I did. This is an amazing book about death, forgiveness, capital punishment, and family dynamics and secrets. The characters were well developed and the twists and turns had me reading it non-stop. Would be a great discussion book for a group. It may be difficult for some since the murder victim is ...more
The Crying Tree is an amazing book about family, forgiveness, and grief. I couldn't put this book down. Naseem Rakha did a terrific job exploring death row in a way I had never really considered before. But that issue was really second to forgiveness. The two are interwoven in a believeable, realistic way. I wish she had given us more of a perspective from Bliss, the sister. But I suppose that could be a separate story in itself. I love it when books leave a lasting impression and keep you think ...more
If you are looking for a fiction piece on the death penalty and the ripple effects of this sentence on the people involved in the crime (victims and perpetrators), this is a good place to start. It's not difficult to get through, written in non-technical language, and filled with emotion.

By about a third of the way through I'd guessed how the crime actually happened. I'm not sure most readers will, so I won't spoil it. I think the actual details might be another novel in itself, which made me s
Schuyler Wallace
Naseem Rakha’s novel “The Crying Tree” is insightful, wonderfully expressive, and will strike a nerve in all but the most callous. It’s about forgiveness; what initiates the need, why it becomes an obsession, and how the move impacts relationships. Rakha’s insight has been gained through much careful reflection and personal experience, and she masterfully conveys how the letting go of anger can affect life.

“The Crying Tree” is about a young family visited by a terrible tragedy. A 15-year old son
Julie Faulise
This was a book I couldn't put down & made me cry - 353 pages in about 4 days. A story about a family that uproots themselves to Oregon and find themselves in a horrific family crisis - their 15 year old son is murdered. The novel progresses to show how each family member deals with it in their own way. Even with such overwhelming pain we see how forgiveness can be possible and is necessary. Many shocling events throughout the story. Hope you get a chance to read it!
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REVIEWS 5 52 Jul 21, 2009 02:20PM  
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Naseem is an award winning author and journalist whose stories have been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Her best selling novel The Crying Tree is a winner of the 2010 PNBA Book Award and recent Richard and Judy Book Club pick.

Naseem is interested in stories that have spur discussion and interest in critical social issues.

Naseem is represented by Markson Thoma Literary A
More about Naseem Rakha...

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“It had been so beautiful. Life had been so simple and so terribly beautiful.” 8 likes
“Maybe a family is linked in ways we have no way to understand. Some unseen, cellular connection that binds us past and present. If so, perhaps when my brother died, those cells we shared died as well. And for us, that would have been the heart. Those fine, fragile walls that let us embrace life with fearlessness and faith. We suffer because our heart is dying, one small cell at a time.” 6 likes
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