Christopher MacMillan's Reviews > The Trees

The Trees by Conrad Richter
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Aug 03, 12

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Read in May, 2012

The first instalment of Conrad Richter's The Awakening Land Trilogy, titled The Trees, comes across like Little House on the Prairie if written by Cormac McCarthy: it's a dark, devilish tale of what happens when the Luckett family, in the late 1700s, blazes their way through a sea of thick, sky-blackening trees, in America's uninhabited backwoods to settle as hermits in the Ohio Valley.

Though told through a variety of viewpoints, we are mainly shown the world via the eyes of the Luckett's eldest daughter Sayward, who has to more-or-less raise her brothers and sisters as the family clan is met with a series of hardships. Death, disease, hunger, cold winters, the mysterious disappearance of a family member, the running away of some others, the nervous collapse of yet another, as well as some ghostly apparitions are just some of the challenges Sayward must face as we watch her fight to keep her family (or what's left of it) alive as she herself grows into womanhood.

Throughout the novel, we see the Lucketts eventually be joined in the forest by others, turning their plotted land into a small commune. By the novel's end, the land begins to "awaken", with the civilians of the backwoods clearing away the trees, thus progressing from hunters to farmers. It's a terrific start to the trilogy, being slow-moving and subtle, but simmering with an unearthly magic.
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