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Roots of the Olive Tree. Courtney Miller Santo Paperback – October 1, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hay House (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848509766
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848509764
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,104,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


In a debut that takes a wry look at our obsession with ageing and its elixirs, Santo also raises interesting questions about the nature of family bonds. Daily Mail

From the Back Cover

Meet the Keller family, five generations of firstborn women living together in the same house on a secluded olive grove in Northern California.

Anna, the matriarch, is 112 and determined to become the oldest person in the world. She rules the family home she shares with her daughter Bets, granddaughter Callie, great-granddaughter Deb, and great-great-granddaughter Erin. Though they lead ordinary lives, there is an element of the extraordinary to these women: all are defying longevity norms. Their unusual lifespans have caught the attention of a geneticist who believes they hold the key to breakthroughs in the aging process.

But Anna is not interested. She believes there are some truths that must stay hidden. Each of the Keller women conceals their true self from the others. While they are bound by blood, living together has not always been easy. And it is about to become more complicated now that Erin, the youngest, is back. Her return and the arrival of the geneticist who has come to study them ignites explosive emotions that these women have kept buried and uncovers revelations that will shake them to their roots.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Courtney Miller Santo teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she received her MFA. She has a BA in journalism from Washington and Lee University and although born and raised in Portland, Oregon, she's spent most of her adult life in the South. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Los Angeles Review, Irreantum, Sunstone and Segullah. Her debut novel THE ROOTS OF THE OLIVE TREE will be published this year by William Morrow. For more information please visit

Customer Reviews

They seemed to be lacking in character development and I just didn't like them.
Margie D.
Courtney Miller Santo has written a unique and eloquent story and I would recommend this read to any genre of reader.
As soon as I finished reading this book, I went right to the first page and began reading it again.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Brazier VINE VOICE on July 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Anna, Bets, Callie, Deb, and Erin are five first-born women, representing five generations of the Keller family, still living. Anna is 112. As the story opens, she is the second oldest living human being in the world. She prides herself on her longevity, and all of the five generations of daughters, except Bets, are excited that Dr.Amrit Hashmi, a geneticist, is coming to investigate the reason for their longevity. Betts holds in her heart secrets about her family that no one else knows. She fears that the geneticist may discover those secrets and divulge them.

This tender story, narrated by various, well-developed characters throughout its unfurling, is wonderful. The author's depictions of the Keller family show us the importance of acceptance of the imperfections and faults that are the undeniable frail and flawed human condition. The characters inspire the reader to value and savor familial relationships, cherishing the ties that bind us, and reminding us to treasure the time we have with our relations.

Setting this sensitive story in the beautiful and fertile family orchards of olive trees is perfect. The strong, old roots of the olive trees mirror the ties that bind this family together. The orchards represent the ongoing tradition of the family, the nurturing of whose trees provide their livelihood and wealth and sustenance. These ancient trees that were brought over to America from Australia show the significance of family and deep ancestral roots. This book is a veritable treasure.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love reading stories that have unique settings and when I saw the beautiful cover of this book and its interesting setting, an olive grove in the Sacramento Valley in Northern California, I knew I had to read it. The story revolves around five generations of the Keller family - there's matriarch Anna who is 112 years old and the second oldest woman in the world; her daughter Bets who is 90 years old; granddaughter Callie; great-granddaughter Deb; and, Deb's daughter Erin, who is Anna's great-great-granddaughter. Anna presides over the family at her residence, Hill House which is close to the olive grove. Throw in a geneticist who is intrigued by the family's history of longevity and wants to discover their secret and you have quite a story.

There's plenty of secrets in this novel pertaining to the older women's longevity and also the secrets each of them harbors. In a novel that appears cluttered with so many important characters, it may seem that character development might not be satisfactory. Not so the case with this book - each character has a distinctive voice and the reader is able to glean insights into each character's thoughts, fears, aspirations, etc. It helps that the author chose to tell the story from multiple points of view so that each character has a turn, and in doing this, readers are afforded an intimate close-up of how these individuals think and feel. Admittedly, I found some of the women's stories more compelling than others, but it still made for a riveting read. It is also a testament to this debut novelist's talents that she is able to provide distinct voices to each character yet also weave together a compelling story of what makes and completes a family. I loved the story and was sad to see it end.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. Reynard VINE VOICE on July 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The whole premise of this novel sounded interesting. Five generations of women, mostly living together, and the oldest being a hundred and twelve. I must confess, even though I know it's fiction I hoped to find the secret to living to such an age in this book. And while it's not in here, there were other secrets that were revealed.

Anna is 112, the 2nd oldest documented person in the world. And she wants to be the first, and even more so, she wants to live to be older than the oldest documented person was, 122. Bets, her daughter, isn't thrilled about the attention it's bringing the family though. A scientist, whom her daughter Callie is much attracted to, wants to study the family. And in doing so he could bring about secrets that she isn't ready to divulge. Her grand-daughter, Deb, is still in prison and it has brought her daughter Erin home for a parole hearing. But apparently the family is meant to grow because Erin comes home pregnant as well. These five women all have their struggles and everything they do in life seems to effect each other.

Some of the women I liked more than others. Anna for example, is hard not to like. She's just too old to get mad at and you have to admire her drive and gumption. Bets, while kind at heart, just wasn't as interesting as Anna, even though she herself is quite old. Callie I didn't like at all, I found her selfish and so was her daughter Deb. Erin, while the focus of a lot of the book, just never really had her character developed that much. I felt like she was just a side note, put there for the sake of a space filler and fifth generation. And their squabbles between each other were just uncomfortable sometimes.

I liked the way the stories weaved in and out of this book.
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