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The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  405 ratings  ·  89 reviews
In this compelling, beautiful memoir, award-winning writer Apricot Irving recounts her childhood as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti during a time of upheaval—both in the country and in her home.

Apricot Irving grew up as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti—a country easy to sensationalize but difficult to understand. Her father was an agronomist, a man who hiked alone into th
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by Simon Schuster
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's not even 2 p.m. and I've already convinced a half dozen people to read this book today. I've never read a book like this that walks the line between turning missionaries into heroes and deconstructing the missionary narrative completely. If you catalogued books by the narrative attitude, you'd shelves this one somewhere between The End of the Spear and The Poisonwood Bible. Apricot lived too closely with her father to lionize him, but her respect for him and his work remains clear, even whe ...more
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
I’m willing to bump to 2.5 stars.

This book was like a giant pot of vegetables that was meant to turn into stew but no one turned on the burner. All the ingredients but none of the flavor.

There were so many ideas presented about economy, environment, Columbus shaming, religion all mixed up with bitterness towards her parents with no consistency in presentation from beginning to end.

The writing style also needs work as there are chapters that are historical in nature alongside chapters that are
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
This was a hard read for me because I don't believe in the practice of missionary work; however, I wanted a close look into the mindset or belief system (outside of religion) that compels individuals to go "save" other people. I think the author did a beautiful job paying tribute to her father and sharing how she coped and navigated their complicated relationship, as well as the country of Haiti. It would have been nice to hear more about the relationships they had with actual Haitians and how t ...more
(3.5) Irving’s parents were volunteer missionaries to Haiti between 1982 and 1991, when she was aged six to 15. Her father, Jon, was trained as an agronomist, and his passion was for planting trees to combat the negative effects of deforestation on the island (erosion and worsened flooding). But in a country blighted by political unrest, AIDS and poverty, people can’t think long-term; they need charcoal to light their stoves, so they cut down trees.

Along with an agricultural center, the American
Jill Dobbe
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
A missionary family moves to Haiti spending several years off and on, much to the dismay of their daughters. Apricot, the oldest daughter, has a troubled relationship with her father who seems to care more about Haiti, its trees, and people, rather than her family. Only as she marries and has her own children does she begin to understand her father, and realize she is like him in many ways.

I especially enjoyed learning about what life was like in Haiti for this missionary family and how they acc
Michelle Ule
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This book didn't work for me, though Irving is a splendid wordsmith.

If you're interested in daily life for expats in Haiti in the 1980s, there is interest here but I never connected well with the point of the memoir.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years. Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres. Trying to use words, and every attempt is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure. Because one has only learnt to get the better of words for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which one is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate, with shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mes ...more
Paul Pessolano
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
“The Gospel of Trees” by Apricot Irving, published by Simon and Schuster.

Category – Memoir Publication Date – February 13, 2018.

This book is much more than a memoir; it is a short history of the turbulent times in the country of Haiti.

Apricot’s father was an agronomist. He was in love with nature and had a passion for trees. If you know anything about Haiti you would know that the small island country is almost devoid of trees. Trees are cut down to make charcoal and due to this deforestation th
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: faith, memoir, merica
I will admit that I purchased this book out of sentiment, and the sense that Irving and I had lived parallel lives, a rare enough thing to find in memoirs. This did in some ways turn out to be the case, but not in ways that bolstered my enjoyment of the text in measurable ways. If this had been an impulse buy, perhaps I would not feel disappointed as I do, but I had to check four local bookstores and finally send off through Barnes & Noble to get a copy, then wait for its arrival. That kind of p ...more
Karen Germain
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of Apricot Irving's memoir, The Gospel of Trees, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- Apricot Irving was in elementary school during the 1980's, when her parents accepted a missionary trip to the island of Haiti. She spent a majority of her childhood living in Haiti, with occasional trips back to the United States. Irving's memoir is about finding a sense of belonging, both as an American being raised in Haiti, and of trying to connect
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
This book really could have used a better editor. A lot of repetition and at least 50 pages too long. I expected something more compelling about the missionary life. Instead of this book please read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Sometimes fiction can feel more true than non fiction. It certainly can contain a more dramatic rendering of the truth.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Author Apricot Irving's parents were missionaries in Haiti for several years starting in the 1970s, and Apricot's memoir evokes what the experience meant for her as a child, a teenager, and an adult. The vividness of her writing benefits from the fact that both parents kept diaries. Her own journal, which she started at a very young age, also gives both happy and bitter memories remarkable immediacy.

Apricot's counterculture parents were people used to hiking long distances and sleeping under the
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Apricot Irving moves from Oregon to Haiti in 1982, when she is six years old as her father takes on the job of teaching Haitians reforestation through a Baptist mission station. While Apricot, her mother and her two younger sisters are along for the ride, her father is filled with a zealous desire to "save" Haiti through reforestation. Using access she is given as an adult to her parents' journals from the time and her own memories, Irving creates a beautiful and painful memoir that critically e ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, giveaways
I won a copy of The Gospel of Trees in a Goodreads giveaway; this did not influence my review in any way.

I've read a string of sub-par memoirs lately that left me doubting why I love the genre, so Apricot Irving's memoir came as a breath of fresh air. The amount of research Irving invested into this book is stunning; she not only culled through her own family's letters, newsletters, cassette tapes, journals and more, but she also presents an educated and unbiased view on Columbus, colonialism, s
Jul 28, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019reads
Hard to review, as someone who spent my early 20s doing short / medium term mission trips with Baptists, and identifies as agnostic and deeply political now.

I think in the end I wish this was a slightly different book. What it is: a memoir about a family, their time spent in Haiti, and the evolution of the author’s relationship with her dad and with Haiti. She looks in a real way at the problematic pieces of how mission work is / can be imperialistic, and how relationships with local citizens ge
Dorothy Rice
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, memoir-place
Beautifully written memoir of a most unusual childhood, living in Haiti as the daughter of missionaries during turbulent times for that beleaguered nation. I particularly appreciated, and learned from, the bits of brutal history about the devastation and destruction that accompanied the arrival of white men, beginning with Christopher Columbus.
Amanda Welker
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
As an ex-Christian who grew up in a church that treated missionaries like movie stars and who went on my own mission trip, Irving gives voice to the internal debate we face while abroad: Are we helping or are we hurting?

Emily  Josabeth  Klein
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
This was so good. I find missionaries stories so fascinating so to read a memoir about it was great. I also learned so much about Haiti and missionary life.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Beautiful writing. However, I remained disengaged.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a Memoir of the oldest daughter of a missionary family. They first went to Haiti in 1982, way before the terrible earthquake. The book discribes the disappointments, the difficulties, and the triumphs of their family and the other missionary families there~ trying to make a difference in the lives of the people who live there. It's well worth reading~ for Christians~ especially those who have contemplated the mission field, or are supporting missionaries.

Interesting side fact: I bought
Beth Rider
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Couldn't finish, I got about one-third of the way in. I love memoirs, especially memoirs about time in countries other than America. The Gospel of Trees, though, was very history-heavy, and I found myself starting to skim over the history bits in search of what the author and/or her family did next.

The writing is good, the author makes great use of metaphor and narrates well. The prose is natural, like the author is simply having a fireside chat with friends or family. Overall, the book isn't b
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I can't say that I loved this, but it was alright. It was interesting, at least. The story follows Apricot and her family through their missionary trips to Haiti. They were almost accidental missionaries, falling into the opportunity as her parents searched for adventure, but it soon became an obsession.

Apricot's father was there as an agronomist, believing that trees were the key to a new flourishing Haiti. A lot of damage was done to both the island and its economy following the mass harvestin
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

The Gospel of Trees is Apricot Irving's memoir of growing up as a missionary's daughter in Haiti. Her father, Jon, was an agronomist who spent his time in Haiti trying to convince Haitians of the importance of planting trees for the local ecosystem. Apricot, her mother, and her sisters spent most of their time inside the missionary complex.

Irving has relied on not just her memories and journals from her time in Ha
Lisa Cobb Sabatini
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I won a copy of The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir by Apricot Irving from Goodreads.

Apricot It's painfully, joyfully honest memoir about growing up as a member of a missionary family, The Gospel of Trees, is a candid look at family dynamics, missionary roles in struggling economies, and the nation of Haiti. Irving does not shy away from the mistakes and failures of missionaries, not from the mentalities she faced. Yet, she opens the readers' eyes and hearts to the beauties of Haiti and the possibilit
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A realistic view of missionary zeal in a land of profound and enduring need. I keep coming back to one passage, the writer’s own question: “The question I can’t escape (the question that underlies every missionary experiment) is: Should we have kept trying, even if we were doomed to fail?” And the answer to the question, as Irving notes, is yes but perhaps only if we can learn the significance of our small place of service in the face of intractable need. Irving quotes the Talmud as one way to t ...more
Miriam Downey
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c...

Apricot Irving looks back at her life as a child of missionaries in Haiti in the 1980s and 1990s in her memoir, The Gospel of Trees.. Her father, Jon, was an agronomist and went to Haiti to reforest the country. Sometimes his efforts were of little help, and his resulting anger and frustration led to a tumultuous family life.

The family first went to Haiti when the three girls, Apricot, Meadow, and Rose were quite young; Apricot w
Janice Shull
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Apricot Irving tells a complicated story of Haiti and its significance to her family in The Gospel of Trees, a poignant and unforgettable memoir. Irving, a writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon, divided her growing-up years between the San Jacinto Valley in southern California and the barren mountains of northern Haiti. Jon Anderson, the author’s father, was an agronomist with a passion for trees. After failed attempts at farming in California, her parents responded to a call to serve ...more
Barbara M
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It appealed to me on so many different levels. It is the author's first book.

It is a memoir about Apricot Irving's life as the daughter of a missionary growing up in Haiti. Her father's project was helping the country reforest - planting seeds/trees all over Haiti. Her father preached "the gospel of trees." As a young child, she loved playing outdoors with her sisters and other kids. As a teenager, she found herself questioning her father's work and his devotion to it and rebe
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was the story of a couple who were missionary agronomists. They take their 3 young daughters ( Apricot, Meadow, and Rose ) to Haiti to share the love of God and plant trees. The story begins in the 1980's and ends in 2016. The story covers the trials of the missionaries through the many political upheavals, arguments with the Baptist mission boards, hurricanes and the earthquake of 2010. There were parts of the story that were mildly reminiscent of Poisonwood Bible and The ...more
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