Jill's Reviews > The Forgetting Tree

The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli
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's review
Jul 18, 2012

it was amazing

In this intensely spellbinding novel, Tatjana Soli delivers an incredibly complex story that – at its core – focuses on two women, one white, one black, who are seeking forgiveness and rejuvenation. It’s a true stunner.

The premise is telegraphed in an opening quote from Marilynne Robinson: “In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindness knowing there is a sense that things should be otherwise…”

Claire is a literary woman who marries for love and finds herself enamored of her new husband’s farm – a place of connection and belonging and family. In the very first sentence, we learn that Claire will undergo “a small, domestic evil, as random as lightning, as devastating to those touched by it.” Very early on, we discover that that evil is a mother’s worst nightmare – the death of her only son near the orchard’s lemon tree.

The novel meanders into back story – how Claire ended up at the farm, the difficulty in keeping it – in rather prosaic passages. But hold on tight, because the novel soon begins to gather steam with the introduction of Minna, an exotic and devastatingly beautiful woman who ends up becoming Claire’s caregiver. Minna claims to be the great-granddaughter of the Dominica-born author Jean Rhys, who wrote Wide Sargasso Sea – a a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s famous Jane Eyre, focusing on the “crazy woman in the attic”, Antoinette (known as Rochester’s first wife, Berta Mason in Jane Eyre).

Wide Sargasso Sea’s many themes – disintegrating relationships, precarious mental states, empty promises, and unwavering belief – are all integrated into The Forgetting Tree. Claire and Mina gradually twin to a point where Claire “could no longer tell the difference between her white and Minna’s black.” To say much more would be to give spoilers, but I found the relationship between these two damaged women to be as engrossing as I’ve read this year.

Can one’s soul grow anew after a tragedy? Is it possible that a “forgetting tree” could provide solace? Or, as Minna’s mother tells her: “The tree is where you leave the bad memory behind so that it doesn’t poison your life.” Can a person realign with the natural world after unspeakable loss? This book – in turns, gothic, mysterious, poignant, and haunting – is not soon to be forgotten.
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Reading Progress

July 18, 2012 – Started Reading
July 18, 2012 – Shelved
July 18, 2012 –
page 75
July 19, 2012 –
page 185
July 21, 2012 –
page 275
July 22, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Carol (new)

Carol You surely do have a way with words and have drawn me to this one.

Jill Thanks, Carol. For the first 100 pages...well, I wasn't sure. But when this novel introduces Minna and gets into the "meat" of things, it became a spellbinder. REALLY liked it!

Joyce Jill, you described this book exceeding well. I was indeed spellbound by these two damaged women. I kept wondering what was really going on. There was this strange ying and yang. Captivating and such good, good writing and story telling. This book exceeded my expectations for sure. Thanks again Jill for a wonderful read.

Jill Joyce, I'm so glad so many of my recommendations are paying off for you. Thanks for your kind comments!

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