The Memory Tree – Tess Evans



I read The Book of Lost Threads and loved it, consequently  I was very keen to read Ms Evans new novel.  I wasn’t disappointed, but I would think very carefully before recommending this novel – mostly because of the content (I don’t want to give anything away, but there is death and mental illness and it might just be too confronting for some people).
Here is the blurb …
 When Paulina dies mid-dance, she leaves 12-year-old Zav and 7-year-old Sealie with their loving but unstable father, Hal. The grieving family decides to plant a tree in her memory – a magnolia which, growing along with the children, offers a special place where secrets are whispered and feelings can be confessed.
But as the memory tree grows, Hal, bereft, and increasingly suspicious of the world, turns to his own brand of salvation to make sense of the voices that bewilder and torment him. Mrs Mac, housekeeper and second mother since Paulina’s death, cooks, cleans, loves and worries about her ‘family’. She is even more concerned when Hal brings a larger-than-life stranger to the house for a beer; but Pastor Moses B. Washbourne, founder of the Church of the Divine Conflagration, ex-sergeant of the US Army, soon becomes part of the family, with surprising and far-reaching consequences.
As the seasons pass, Sealie blossoms into young woman, the apple of Hal’s eye while Zav, having spent his childhood quietly trying to win his father’s lost attention, is conscripted for duty in Vietnam.
And all the while, the voices continue to murmur poisonous words to Hal who knows he must keep them hidden . . . until he is persuaded into the most tragic of acts.
Written with humour and compassion, The Memory Tree is a poignant and compelling story of love, loyalty, grief and forgiveness

It was beautifully written – the characters seemed very real and her portrayal of mental illness superb. We know Hal does something awful, but when we finally come to the event it is still shocking and tragic. But Hal is not the only ‘broken’ character; Zav can’t seem to get on with his life he is both  self absorbed and selfish dooming Sealie to a life of servitude. And Sealie sacrifices her life so easily I wonder if she had any real interest to live her life.

Along with fabulous characters, there was a real feeling of place. Whether it be the house by the river Hal built for Paulina or the j ward of the mental asylum you could picture the environment.  This story is about family, heredity, duty and sacrifice, but it is also about the family we make for ourselves – Mrs Mac, Godown, Will and Scottie.

More reviews … (You might need to scroll down a bit to find this one) 



1 Comment

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One Response to The Memory Tree – Tess Evans

  1. I agree her portrayal of mental illness was excellent – a great review!

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d out

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