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The Red Tree

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  2,850 ratings  ·  426 reviews
Sarah Crowe left Atlanta--and the remnants of a tumultuous relationship--to live in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant--an anthropologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on a desolate corner of the property.

Tied to local legends of supernatural magic, as well as documented
Paperback, 385 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Ace Books (first published July 10th 2009)
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Janie McCormick You are smart in passing on this one. I found it on the withdrawn rack at our local library so thankfully I didn't have to pay money for it. Maybe…moreYou are smart in passing on this one. I found it on the withdrawn rack at our local library so thankfully I didn't have to pay money for it. Maybe it's just me but the book went no where and left me with way more questions than answers. It kept my interest just enough to keep reading in hopes it would get better but sadly it did not. The ending was a huge disappointment. I would not recommend this one to anymore. (less)

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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  2,850 ratings  ·  426 reviews

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Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Fierce
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.

Nov 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Matt Schiariti
Nov 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
David Wilson
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
music: Ramones - "I Don't Want To Go Down To The Basement" (both doesn't fit and does; there's many reasons why the house's basement, that Sarah lives in in this story, is scary and dangerous)

(this book reminds me a lot of the author's own voice; something of her and her life seems to be over this)

After leaving Atlanta, and the tragic end of her relationship with her girlfiend, Sarah Crowe is determined to rest and finish her novel living alone on Wight Farm, in rural Rhode Island. But as she
Derek Pegritz
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 ...more
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
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, ...more
Lauren Stoolfire
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, lgbtq, horror
Caitlin R. Kiernan certainly has a way with words, doesn't she? Wow! It took me a minute to get into the swing of it, but I'm so glad I kept going. If you like Neil Gaiman's style, I have a feeling you'll love The Red Tree. I need to read more of this author's work in the future.
Connie G
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Writer Sarah Crowe came north to Rhode Island to try to forget an upsetting relationship that had a tragic end. Hoping that a change of location will cure her writer's block, she rents an old house with a huge red oak tree several hundred years old sitting at the edge of the property. In the dank basement Sarah finds an unfinished manuscript written by a professor who had been investigating the horrific local legends about the great tree. He added to the historical lore when he hung himself from ...more
Adam Nevill
Dec 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
It's a decent enough book but it seems to meander around aimlessly for about 90% of the page space and then end very abruptly. I was very into it at some points and for awhile even thought I would give it 4 stars, but ultimately there was just not enough of a payoff at the end. Also it does that thing where an author has a main character who is ALSO an author and seems to use that character as a proxy to complain about certain negative reviews of their own books and I just HATE that. Like I love ...more
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: moony souls mourning the end of night
Recommended to Still by: I was into a novella by Kiernan

This book gave me the walking pneumonia and the throw it out the window fits.

I loved Kiernan's Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan ...only book of hers that I've read and that was a novella.
I mean -I damned dead long gone loved that.
So I bought this.

It's a ghost love story told first person (from "journals" left by a suicide we're informed in the almost endless introduction) and its so impossibly hip and so many fathoms beyond cool that I felt like I was a goddamned retro with a flat-top. Double the Butch Wax.

I can't say I
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sarah Crowe, mid-list author of fantasy novels and short stories, has left Atlanta after a bitter breakup (culminating in the suicide of her ex-girlfriend) and decamped to the middle of nowhere in Rhode Island. Unfortunately for her (but fortunately for Kiernan’s reader), the house she’s rented has a troubling history that centers on an enormous red tree set nearby, linked to centuries of sacrifice, hauntings, werewolves, and death. Much of this history is relayed through - what else? - a ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
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
Dec 11, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
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
Chris Berko
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
If books were judged by covers, I would place this on the "Buffy-type character who works at the local funeral parlor putting makeup on the dead bodies uses her magic to get the cute guy to ask her to prom" shelf. But we don't judge books by covers, and if I did I would not have read this. The Red Tree is a couple of stories in one, never lingering too long on any one thread, never rally wrapping anything up. Like the part where she talks about things never ending, like walking the circumference ...more
Rebecca McNutt
The Red Tree is in the old style of those 70's-80's horror paperbacks I love, an old-fashioned creepy story with dark psychological undertones.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror
Caitlin R. Kiernan is obviously a very talented writer, but that still doesn't save this novel. It is nearly 400 pages of rambling and a barely-there plot. Even the main character continually says things like "I'm rambling", "I'm bored", and "I'm digressing". She really should have listened to her main character and tightened this story up.
Orrin Grey
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
While there are few answers and even fewer conclusions to be drawn from The Red Tree, it is still a damned fine read, one distinguished as much by the voices as the embedded narratives. What Caitlín R. Kiernan has crafted here is a story of stories within stories, each of which adds to the overall mystery and the sense of creeping dread, all without ever leading us any closer to a climax.

The first of those embedded narratives is the preface from Sarah Crowe’s editor, really sets the stage here –
Jeff McIntosh
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I've read several of Ms. Kiernan's short stories, and "The Red Tree" is the second novel I've read by her....

Basic plot - Sarah Crowe left Atlanta after the suicide of her lover, Amanda, and has leased an house in New England, the site of an ancient Oak, rumored to possess supernatural magic, as well as a number of documented accidents and murders....

I just wasn't feeling this took me forever to read, and, apart from 2-3 events, didin't find the novel itself to be particularly
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I started out really liking this, but then tension didn't build and I wasn't scared. I really liked the lesbian relationships as I wasn't expecting LGBT+ content. I also liked the folklore and serial killer aspects to the Red Tree's history. But I didn't like Constance's presence meaning the theme of solitude didn't exist. And even looking back having finished it, I still don't think I'll enjoy Constance as a character. I also found the ending completely without tension, which disappointed my ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
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
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Urban Fantasy Afi...: The Red Tree - Michelle's Choice 15 68 Nov 15, 2012 01:10PM  

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Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan (born 26 May 1964) is the author of science fiction and dark fantasy works, including ten novels; many comic books; and more than two hundred published short stories, novellas, and vignettes. She is also the author of scientific papers in the field of paleontology.

(from Wikipedia)
“I am usually at my most brutally forthright when making shit up. That's the paradox of me.” 6 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.” 5 likes
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