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The Drowning Tree

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,595 ratings  ·  287 reviews
Artfully imagined, intricately detailed, eerily poignant: these are the outstanding features of Carol Goodman’s literary thrillers. She is part novelist, part craftsman—and The Drowning Tree is her newest masterpiece.

Juno McKay intended to avoid the nearby campus of her alma mater during her fifteenth reunion weekend, but she just can’t turn down the chance to see her long
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 28th 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,595 ratings  ·  287 reviews

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Lindsay Heller
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, academia, mystery
This was my third Carol Goodman novel and from the outset it's clear; she definitely has a formula down. Secrets from the past shedding light on the present, tight knit academia, meditations on art and literature, and gripping literary mysteries. I suppose I should feel as if I've read this before (and from the same author), but instead I'm waiting for a new one in the mail.

'The Drowning Tree' is the story of Juno McKay, former artist and current expert in stained glass. She lives in the same s
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mystery lovers, mythology lovers, imaginative people
This is by far my favorite Carol Goodman book. I love the characters in it, the elements of mythology, the art, the settings, all of it. It's also one of the saddest books I've read. When I read this book the first time, in high school, it was probably the saddest book I had ever read, and it took me about a week to get the story, and especially the ending, out of my head.

This book has a lot of elements in common with other Carol Goodman books, such as the protagonist being divorced, having a ch
Kaethe Douglas
Such a pretty cover, not that you can tell from the thumbnail, but trust me. I had this and the Mary Stewart 3-in-1 Merlin book on the coffee table at the same time. Same colors. One looks like some bizarre Jesus theory, the other looks brooding and mysterious. The girls and I all noticed.

Not just the cover is my cuppa. Something horrible happened twenty years ago, and now many of the same people are back in town and one of them ends up dead. More Laura Lippman than Barbara Vine, but very moody
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lisa
Shelves: mysteries, 2010
Ahh, Carol Goodman. Returning to her novels is like ordering your favorite meal at a restaurant. You know exactly what to expect and will most likely enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed this one.

Juno McKay sees her best friend Christine Webb off at the train station after their fifteenth-year college reunion. Christine had just delivered a lecture at the Penrose College Library, shocking the crowd with little known details about the founding Penrose family. The next day, Christine disappears.

I find
Feb 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I tried to wade through all the pretentious quotes in Latin, the lessons in Greek mythology, the prestigious school name-dropping, among other things, but after 70 pages I still couldn't find a story in this book. If you're really interested in the art of stain-glass making or the rowing sport--crew, then you'll enjoy the tedious, mind-numbing descriptions that go on ad nauseam. Unfortunately, I don't find either subject very appealing, especially not in the dosages the author is handing out. Wh ...more
When I finished "The Lake of Dead Languages" about a month ago, I couldn't wait to read more by Carol Goodman. I liked everything about it: the setting, the characters, the references to art, literature and classical mythology, and the mystery (although it wasn't very hard to solve). Those same elements make "The Drowning Tree" worth reading too, but the similarities go so far that I sometimes wondered whether I wasn't still reading the same book. Single mother with daughter faces mysterious dev ...more
Mar 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why haven't I heard about this boook before? Astoundingly good.

Layers upon layers of symbolism and metaphor, from pre-Raphaelite art to Greek mythology. The layers show up not only in the characters' activities, but in the language the author chooses. The book is so lovely and carefully wrought, it makes my head spin (in a good way).

In addition, there is a mystery to be solved. Those of you who hate mysteries, I am one of you. Never read them. Nope. But I was sucked into this one by not knowing
I listened to the audio version of this novel for a suspense genre study for work. It's a contemporary Gothic set in upstate New York, where an art scholar drowns (murder? suicide?) while investigating the mysterious lives of a Victorian artist and his mentally ill sister-in-law. The book has a few creepy, atmospheric moments, but ultimately is undone by ridiculous plot twists and clunky, repetitive writing (for some reason every person or thing in the book looks like a 'medieval painting').
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There's a possible murder at a snooty women's college, and the only way the heroine can save the day is with her vast knowledge of Greek/Roman mythology and 19th Century stained glass techniques. It's a book that lets you feel good about your liberal arts education.
Mandy Jacobs
no one makes that many art history or mythology references in day to day life. cool it with that nonsense.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2008
Carol Goodman continues with her theme of secrets-from-the-past in her third book. Once again, she's created a world that I became completely absorbed in and a mystery that I couldn't figure out. Each time I thought "ah ha, THIS is what happened" the main character thought of it herself and sent the story in another direction by disproving it.

It happens too often that I love someone's debut novel and then end up disappointed in everything that follows, so I'm really glad Goodman isn't falling vi
Jul 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Irritating and poorly written. Writing is a craft this author does not respect. I slogged through the book, editing as I read. I made 66 alterations on page 152.
This was another solid book from Carol Goodman. Her writing is so evocative, always with water, place and landscape, and this time around with paintings and stained glass as well.
Margo Brooks
Carol Goodman is one of my favorite authors, but when you read her novels, you know you are going to have a female main character who is a writer, artist, art historian or some closely related field, a closed community of some sort and a mystery that links past and present. But her writing is so lyrical and her plots so interesting, that it doesn't matter. You fall into the mood and stay there till the end.

In this novel, best friends from college are, 15 years later, both working on their alma
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like myths
Shelves: fondmemories
Once again, Goodman delivers with a fabulous setting seemingly drawn from her own imagination. I would wager that Goodman has spent time in upstate New York, because she writes of the place as if she knows it, as if she has thought it was beautiful for a long time. And it sounds amazing, her descriptions make me want to visit so much more than any of those "Discover (insert state here)" commercials I see on television.
The Drowning Tree also has that element of myth woven into the story. The bac
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2011
This is my first Carol Goodman novel and I think I'll go back and read her earlier work. This was a really good novel. This is such a well written book - the imagery created by the author is just wonderful! I enjoyed the intermix of the modern mystery and the ancient with the use of mythology throughout the book. Really effective way to tell this particular story!

This wasn't an 'easy' read yet it wasn't what I'd characterize as difficult either. It felt a bit academic but perhaps that was more
Marika Gillis
Dec 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Erin, Shannon, Andie
Shelves: fiction, mysteries
Juno's best friend, Christine, mysteriously disappears after giving a controversial speech about the influential founding family of the college they both attended. As Juno searches for answers about her friend's disappearance, her own dramatic past- the unplanned pregnancy that kept her from graduating, her former husband's attempt to drown Juno and her daughter, and his subsequent admittance to a nearby mental hospital- begins to emerge in uncomfortable and haunting ways.

Dark, mysterious, and f
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My least favorite book of this author thus far. I was 70% in before it became interesting. After reading so many of Goodman's books, I've become a little annoyed with all of the extensive similarities. The ever changing love interests (3 in this book alone) - as though her heroine is unable to be without a man. The fact that characters can not only remember MANY direct quotes & references from college classes they took 15 years ago as if it were yesterday,and all of her main characters seem ...more
Feb 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsten by: Jen Tait
After fifteen years, Juno McKay returns to Penrose College, her alma mater, to hear her friend Christine Webb give a lecture on a famous stained-glass window that graces the college library. Juno is reluctant to return, given that she dropped out of college shortly before graduation to give birth to her daughter, Bea, and to marry her boyfriend, Neil, who was institutionalized a year later. Loyalty to Christine wins out, however, and Juno is gratified but also concerned when Christine reveals so ...more
I always learn something from Carol Goodman's novels. She has a magical way of blending the classics into her storyline, so that while I'm rooting for various characters, I'm also getting bits of Greek and Roman mythology, history, and a bit of Latin, to boot.

This was another such novel (many of hers seem to involve classics, art, water, and female schoolmates) that brought in the many angles of love and loyalty. I really was intrigued by all the information on stained glassworks, and wish I co
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was NOT a favorite of mine. The book is very descriptive and those descriptions were painfully simple and one dimensional. And the details were MANY. Forget subtle foreshadowing, when some little detail of note occurred in the book, the it was explained in such overabundant detail, and flaunted things that were painfully obvious observations. But this was not the end.... If this detail was then remembered by the main character, all the same information was written again as the small de ...more
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-book, 2014
This book had some good moments, but mostly it was just a hot mess. There was way too much going on in the story and much of it was impossible to believe. (view spoiler) Too many blind alleys and crisscrossing plot lines, to the point that I'm still not sure what exactly happened or what it all meant. I've read other Carol Goodman titles and have really enjoyed ...more
Interesting, but ultimately unfulfilling. I liked the basic plot, but the construction was flawed and several of the characters seemed only to be there as obvious red herrings. As a first novel, not bad, but suffers from some of the overwrought messiness that comes with inexperience.
Theresa Lott
I almost quit halfway through-the college history and information on art/glass making were very long and drawn-out. I am determined to finish though...

Update: I finished it. It wasn't great but at least I know what happened at the end.
Sep 04, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Way too much detail making the story drag on and on. I felt like I should be a glass maker by the end of the story. It was very boring but I managed to read to the end. There were parts in the story that peaked my interest but soon got drowned by the inclusion of all the elements.
Lisa Greer
Mar 07, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-finished
This was not so good. In fact, I read about 120 pages and quit. I knew whodunnit that early, and it wasn't very interesting as a mystery. Boring characters and weird storyline. I know Goodman's other novels got better reviews, so maybe I'll try one more.
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And every time I thought I'd figured it out- a new bend in the road. Best who-done-it I've read in a long time. Kudos.
May 31, 2007 rated it did not like it
DIdn't like it - If you want to read a fine book about time travel and romance - try Possession by A. S. Byatt
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook
I enjoyed many aspects of this book. I appreciated the depth of thought put into the plot and weaving together of the many different stories being told. I also enjoyed the writing, though the imagery and symbolism did become a bit much at times. This book tries to do a lot of things and several of those things it does well. However, I found the resolution of the main mystery - what happened to Christine? - to be quite silly and it completely took me out of the book. The main character also start ...more
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Carol Goodman is the author of The Lake of Dead Languages, The Seduction of Water, which won the Hammett Prize, and The Widow's House, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also the co-author, with her husband Lee Slonimsky, of the Watchtower fantasy trilogy. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Greensboro Review, Literal Latte, The Midwest Quarterly, and Other Voices. After grad ...more
“You told me trees could speak
and the only reason one heard
silence in the forest
was that they had all been born knowing different languages.

That night I went into the forest
to bury dictionaries under roots,
so many books in so many tongues
as to insure speech.

and now this very moment,
the forest seems alive
with whispers and murmurs and rumblings of sound
wind-rushed into my ears.

I do not speak any language
that crosses the silence around me
but how soothing to know
that the yearning and grasping embodied
in trees’ convoluted and startling shapes
is finally being fulfilled
in their wind shouts to each other.

Yet we who both speak English
and have since we were born
are moving ever farther apart
even as branch tips touch.”
More quotes…