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The Lion Trees: Part One: Unraveling Paperback – August 13, 2014
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[FIVE STARS]..."I've been an avid reader for well over thirty-five years. I've been a reviewer for over a dozen. I've been bombarded by today's cookie cutter story assembly and I despise it. ... Then, someone like Owen Thomas comes along and reminds me what the book world CAN offer, what a story CAN be. ... [T]his was an astounding read for me. Not only was the story telling mesmerizing, but Owen's writing style is inspiring. His writing is seamless and flawless and makes me yearn for more." -- LiteraryLitter.com
[A] cerebral page turner...a powerful and promising debut.--Kirkus Reviews
[FIVE STARS]..."This is a powerful, gripping and realistic story. Once, a few decades ago, many authors would set out to write "The Great American Novel," hoping to tap into whatever it is which makes the US and its people so unique and hopeful, particularly at a set point in time. ... These days it doesn't seem like anyone tries to write those kind of seminal novels anymore... until now. ... The Lion Trees does what so very few great novels can: it will take a lot out of you, but leave you with much more than you had when you began." - Pacific Book Review
[FOUR STARS]..."In its structure and nature, [The Lion Trees] reminds me above all of John Updike's wonderful Harry Rabbit novels and their ability to summarize the essence of change in American society across a decade at a time." - BookIdeas.com
“A sweeping literary saga in the tradition of ‘Dr. Zhivago’, ‘Gone with the Wind’, and ‘The Thorn Birds’, this book has it all, including scandal, aspiration, treachery, and reinvention. Thomas’ fiction has a fresh feel—original and stirring—delivering a tale of monumental family dysfunction, which captures interest through numerous plot shifts, quickly alternate between poignant and humorous. By turns exhilarating and exhausting, Thomas creates compelling, rich characters. The ending is just as satisfying as the beginning.” – The Eric Hoffer Book Award
[FIVE STARS]“Every now and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a new voice comes along and knocks your socks off. Owen Thomas owns that voice. . . . Intoxicated by his prose, you gorge upon chunks of passages and while awestruck by the language’s majesty two discordant thoughts course through your brain: why is the book so long and then, superseding that sentiment, please don’t let it end. It is not often that a book like ‘The Lion Trees’ graces our lives.” – The Anchorage Press
About the Author
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Top Customer Reviews
Summarizing the storyline is difficult to do, not only due to the length, but because it is multi-faceted. There are reviews here that have already tackled a summary. I would say this novel might be best described as many "slices of life" that flow from page to page.
Owen Thomas delivers a look at relationships. These glimpses are often humorous, but he also can be tough and right up and in your face. Insightful, and at times almost mesmerizing, this book almost gives the reader a sense of nostalgia that is unrelated to the past. These imperfect characters are intricately woven into imperfect relationships, and I rooted for them like they were rock stars.
I can't say if this is Mr. Thomas's first novel or if he has written a hundred other books. But I will say if it doesn't hit the bestseller list, there's an editor out there somewhere who isn't doing their job.
Mr. Thomas, you are on the radar.
The Lion Trees: Part One: Unraveling, poses these questions through close examination of a dysfunctional family in Columbus, Ohio. Chapters cycle among the viewpoints of four main protagonists, with only one family member, Ben the innocent, being left without a voice of his own. The others weave in and out, warping and wefting through the tragic unfolding of their lives.
Hollis, the father; his wife, Susan; and their apparently doomed son, David, occupy an early turn of this century present, extended to other dimensions of time through extensive flashbacks. Only Tilly, the ultimate persona, an actress by profession, transcends the linear nature of time, flitting back and forth over decades past, present, future, and imagined. The whole cast occupies the same moment in time, with most of them being in the same physical place, only once, at a tragicomic celebration worthy of Mordecai Richler, but the fugal flashbacks create a Rashomon effect of multiple vantage points for many other important incidents in their lives.
This is a complex and serious book, exploring weighty themes with steady and precise writing. The characters are real, their fates are moving, their dialogue is spot on. I know many of these people.Read more ›
Faulkner fans are going to hammer me for saying this, but I found the present novel to be far more accessible, readable and (gasp!) entertaining than THE SOUND AND THE FURY. To be sure, it's A-OK to be hammered by Faulkner fans as they tend to be smarter than I am anyway.
There are 5 main characters in the story:
***Hollis Johns: husband to Susan, father to David, Matilda and Ben. He is a dignified retired banker who has a bit of an aggrandized vision of himself. He longs to have a deeper appreciation from his family (especially his wife) for having been the breadwinner for decades. One of his former business associates is named Charles Compson and there is an allusion to Charles' brother, Quentin Compson. For those who are scoring @ home, this is an obvious allusion to the character from Faulkner's novel.
***Susan Johns: wife to Hollis and mother to David, Matilda and Ben. She resents Hollis' apparent superiority complex and wishes they could live like a "normal" retired couple. Instead, she feels marginalized by a husband who refuses to share what is on his mind. Both Hollis & Susan struggle to cope with being retired and they wish to reclaim their lost youth.
***David Johns: as the eldest son, he was brought up with grandiose expectations which he finds to be difficult to meet.Read more ›
Available from OTF Literary
This novel has garnered an eye-popping number of awards. I appreciate knowing up front when a book has won at least one award or been shortlisted for an honor but that generally doesn’t impact my impression. It might, in fact, lead me to anticipate a better-than-average reading experience, which sets me up for disappointment if the work doesn’t meet my personal standards.
The Lion Trees did not disappoint. The awards this novel (or diptych of two novels, depending on which production version you’re reading) has pulled in are all well deserved. The story follows a family of four: the aging parents and two adult children, as they muddle through some astonishing changes in their lives. They are, like most of us, ensnared by the tendrils of past hurts, wounds, harms and mistakes. They do their best to help themselves without hurting others too much.
Or at least, most of them try not to harm others. The father is the big exception here. The depth and breadth of his arrogance and selfishness keeps him from seeing even the smallest part of how arrogant and selfish he truly is. Even when his wife leaves him to live in a lesbian commune, he still doesn’t really see how entrenched he is in his own horrible ways.
But of course glimmers arise. He eventually, through a lot of suffering that is at times poignant and at other times funny, manages to start down the path of change. The remainder of his family—a son, a daughter and that AWOL wife—meanwhile manage to implement rather large changes. Not without their own suffering of course but they come out stronger, better people. As one might hope.
This is a long novel, clocking in at some 550,000 words.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good story inspires its readers to do two things: think and feel. The characters that incite these activities should live within you, speaking in your mind long after the words... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amy M. Hawes
An impressive piece of the work, the Lion Trees: Part One provides a close exploration of a quiet, seemingly normal family as their relationships with each other and the world... Read morePublished 9 months ago by ekr
Denny Cavanaugh's review Oct 03, 15 · edit
5 of 5 stars
Read in September, 2015
There is a richness and intensity to the writing that I loved. Read more
At first, I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated by the length of this book, as well as by my lack of understanding over what exactly was going on with the family of characters. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ionia Froment
Thanks to Librarything and the author for a free copy of The Lion Trees. This is an epic novel told in two parts, Unraveling and Awakening, and I loved every minute of it. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Paula McComb
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a story about a dysfunctional family. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Teri Hicks
The Lion Trees: Part One and Part Two, by Owen Thomas is a remarkable family saga. We are introduced to the deep and complex members of the Johns family. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Evie
I received a copy of this book in a LibraryThing members giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I am a critical reader, and do not fling star ratings out lightly. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Lizbeth
I got this book through librarything.com giveaway in Exchange for an honest review.
I must say that I don't tend to give stars just for the sake of being polite or just... Read more