Summary: From Tatjana Soli, The New York Times bestselling author of The Lotus Eaters, comes a breathtaking novel of a California ranching family, its complicated matriarch, and the enigmatic caretaker who may destroy them. When Claire Nagy marries Forster Baumsarg, the only son of prominent California citrus ranchers, she knows she’s consenting to a life of hard work, long days, and worry-fraught nights. But her love for Forster is so strong, she turns away from her literary education and embraces the life of the ranch, succumbing to its intoxicating rhythms and bounty until her love of the land becomes a part of her. Not even the tragic, senseless death of her son Joshua at kidnappers’ hands, her alienation from her two daughters, or the dissolution of her once-devoted marriage can pull her from the ranch she’s devoted her life to preserving. But despite having survived the most terrible of tragedies, Claire is about to face her greatest struggle: an illness that threatens not only to rip her from her land but take her very life. And she's chosen a caregiver, the inscrutable, Caribbean-born Minna, who may just be the darkest force of all. Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together. ~amazon.com
Review: For some reason this book has been sitting in my TBR pile since late summer and I wasn't sure why. Obviously the description caught my attention when I initially read it. For the most part, I enjoyed the story but in the end I felt that it could have been wrapped up sooner. I appreciated getting Minna's back story but I didn't feel it was essential to the overall plot. I felt I knew enough about her to enjoy the mystery that Ms. Soli had made her out to be.
The Forgetting Tree is a novel that is about love, death, sickness, health, redemption and family. There is also a lot of mysticism/voodoo thrown in during the 2nd part of the novel. This is the part that I found fascinating. How Minna weaved her story to fit the life she wanted and also how she could read Claire to determine the kind of person she needed to be.
Claire wasn't the most likable character. When her son died tragically, she retreated into herself and pushed her family away. This ended in the divorce of her marriage and her daughters moving away. What I didn't like about Claire is that she relies on Minna so heavily that she doesn't even see what is going on in front of her. She only sees what she wants and starts to alienate herself from those left in her life. Like most people, Claire was complex. She wanted to recede into her fictional novels and live a fictional life. With the stories that Minna wove, she got that to some degree for the time that they lived together.
Ms. Soli holds no punches about the affects of chemotherapy and radiation on a cancer patient. We get to see Claire through the worst of it and get to see her come through in the end. Minna definitely had cast some kind of voodoo on Claire to get her to agree to some of the things she did.
While I wouldn't say I loved The Forgetting Tree, I did find the characters to be real and vivid. I also fell in love with the orchard and the land. I truly believe it takes someone special to work the land. Claire had a love of the land even though she wasn't raised on it.
I still have Ms. Soli's The Lotus Eaters to read. I'm hoping to get to it in 2013.
Final Take: 3.5/5