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"Ms. Carson's lyrical prose weaves a lovely, haunting tale in The Willow Tree. Emma's intimidation by and fear of her step-father saddened me. I identified with the loneliness of an outsider walking the crowded halls of her high school years. As a young woman, her yearning for fulfillment splattered the pages with longing. I wish I could say that Emma finds true love and fulfillment, or that this story ends like a fairy tale. Nonetheless, as in real life, the tale ends where it begins with memories that can't be packed away."- Reader's Favorite
One of today's best new authors, it was no stretch of the imagination that Elan Carson would grow up and evolve to be a successful author.
A born creative writer, Elan Carson started crafting short stories at the age of 6. With help from her grandmother who worked as an English teacher, Elan excelled in reading & writing. Though shy in person, and oftentimes too scared to raise her hand in class, she passionately channeled her voice on paper and through her fictional characters. She learned how to use her imagination to a playful advantage.
Elan's parents knew she would grow up to be a strong writer when she was disqualified from an elementary school writing contest, the judges citing that the story Elan had submitted could not have been written by her.
Disheartened but still passionate, Elan continued to hone her writing skills, eventually testing out different mediums throughout the years. She dabbled in poem-writing, journalism, and songwriting.
By the time she reached high school, she started what would soon become the first draft of The Willow Tree.
It wasn't until college, and with a stroke of fate that she landed a spot in the completely full Fiction Workshop I course, that Elan began to flesh out the full story of The Willow Tree. With help from her peers and her mentor Patricia Geary, she had finished the first draft of her first book by senior year.
**I received a free copy of this book from author in return for a review.**
Well, let's start by saying that this isn't a book for the faint of heart. It deals in hyper-realistic abuse and tragedy and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I was abused myself as a child. The opening of this book brought a flood of memories and heartache.
She captures the sense of loss and worthlessness incredibly well, she doesn't leave out a single thing, which is surprising, since the description of Elan above, in her "About the Author" section doesn't seem to indicate anything about her having been abused; I'm assuming this was written with the help of someone who was. The images portrayed, the feelings discussed... These don't come from an idle mind wondering "What must it be like?" These are raw, real emotions and not for people with a weak stomach.
Elan has a wonderful way with words. The way she writes seems to flow from one page to the next. You don't read this book, you're pulled along by it. Moments come up when you need to go do something and you suppress it, make time for it later, simply to keep reading.
One thing I didn't really buy was the ostracizing behavior exhibited by the 'black culture' of Detroit that was showcased, for several reasons.
Firstly, I am from St. Louis. I went to East St. Louis, which is far worse on it's best day than Detroit on it's worst. Nine murders a night in a city an eighth of the size. I knew plenty of black people who preferred to hang with white people, they got some jeers and jabs, but at the end of the day, they were still black. They were still loved by their black friends and family.Read more ›
The Willow Tree by Elan Carson is a sorrow filled story about Emma, an awkward and abused young lady. Her step father leaves permanent scars upon her soul as he takes her innocence replacing it with haunting pain and nightmares. The novel covers several years span in Emma’s life from junior high through college. She flounders to make friends, always strives to be a “cool kid”, and has a deep desire for a boyfriend. She awkwardly foils every attempt to fit in, although it seems that would be her own insecurities, and lack of confidence. Her own self- destructive voice mimicking that she isn’t good enough.
Emma’s struggles aren’t unlike the average teenage girl who seeks to be something more than what she is, who pursues popularity and acceptance, and desires to be beautiful and admired. The years that she was abused physically, mentally and sexually forced deep pitted gashes inside the twisted crevasses of her mind. They control her, pushing her to depression, and actions that place her on the edge; reminding her that she is alive, putting pain into her numbness.
Elan Carson uses a lyrical sing songy poetic tone in her writing. The images flow easily from one page to the next within visual scenes drawn by the words of the text. The novel places the reader front and center in Emma’s horrific world where they witness her pain, suffering and anger but also her unnatural feelings towards her step father as both a “lover” and a torturer. Few authors have such a profound ability to illustrate emotions, and feelings bringing the reader on an impassioned journey with the protagonist.
The Willow Tree is a novel I envision as a beloved paperback; crinkled edges, sagging binding, countless pages twisted over in a familiar book marking pattern, and borrowing disallowed by the owner in fear of it not being returned. This novel is timeless and will be endeared every bit as much in a hundred years as it is today.
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The Willow Tree is the thought-provoking, coming of age story of Emma, who takes the reader through a journey of her life. From the abuse she endured at the hand of her stepfather in high school to the desperate attempts to gain acceptance amongst a group of people in college, Emma leaves no stone unturned in her story.
Very early on, I felt sympathy for Emma. She had few friends in high school, had a horrible home life, and lived in a state of depression that made me admire her for being able to function at the level she did for so long in the story. The author had me rooting for Emma to "snap out" of her depression, be able to be in a normal romantic relationship, have those few close friends we all want to have, and for her to leave all the negativity and despair in the past, behind closed doors, never to be seen or heard from again. I won't give away the ending, but I will say that I caught myself getting very emotional at times while reading The Willow Tree, because the author's writing makes you connect and FEEL for Emma, which is a testament to Ms. Carson's skillful writing.
You don't have to be a survivor of abuse or someone who has been treated for depression to appreciate Emma and The Willow Tree. If you know someone who has had these experiences, her story may get you thinking how for some people, desperately trying to find their place someone, anywhere, wanting only to be loved and to feel loved can be the challenge of a lifetime. Maybe you see part of yourself in Emma-- maybe you tried to fit in with the popular crowd in college, wore the right clothes, said the right things...all in the hopes of being accepted...and it failed.Read more ›
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