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The Lion Trees: Part One: Unraveling Paperback – August 13, 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


[FOUR STARS]... "By the time you are done with The Lion Trees, you [will] have forgotten all about the length and will realize what an amazingly entertaining piece of literature it was and do I dare say it, a serious novel that provides you with some genuine laugh out loud moments. ... Owen Thomas's writing leaves you richer with emotions and contentment even before the ending arrives. If there is only one book that you are going to read this year, make it The Lion Trees." - Motorwriter.com

[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

Owen Thomas, a life-long Alaskan with an abiding love of original fiction, is a product of the Anchorage School District and a graduate of Duke University and Duke Law School. While managing an employment litigation practice in Alaska, Owen has written three novels: Lying Under Comets: A Love Story of Passion, Murder, Snacks and Graffiti; The Lion Trees, winner of thirteen international book awards (including the 2015 Kindle Book Award, the Eric Hoffer Book Award, the First Horizon Award, the London Book Festival, the New York Book Festival, the Beverly Hills International Book Awards, and the Amsterdam Book Festival); and a novel of interconnected short fiction entitled Signs of Passing, winner of nine book festival awards (including the Pacific Book Awards for Short Fiction and the Great Southeast Book Festival). Owen maintains an active fiction and photography blog on his author website at owenthomasfiction.com.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 826 pages
  • Publisher: OTF Literary; 1 edition (August 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0692235906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692235904
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,868,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Lion Trees is one of those rare books that is worth losing sleep over. It's a book you think about when you are not reading it. You are invested in it's characters and come to know them well. The book draws you in.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Is change possible? Personal growth? A new day? A fresh start? Or are we destined from birth, or perhaps from our first early missteps, to an immutable character? Character not just as a collection of mental and moral qualities, but as a character in a play, a dramatis persona that we must act out again and again in multiple scenes of our lives, a perpetual Groundhog Day? And what room is left for morality, judgment, approbation and adulation if we are each merely spinning in the discs of our lives?

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.
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Format: Paperback
People who have read William Faulkner's THE SOUND AND THE FURY will find much that is familiar here. By no means should this dissuade anyone from perusing the current novel, but the inspiration drawn from Faulkner's novel is rather obvious. Like SOUND, this is a tale of a well-to-do family that has fallen on hard times. Instead of taking place in the deep south, this story is in the middle of the heartland: Columbus, Ohio.

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.
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Format: Paperback
The Lion Trees by Owen Thomas

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.
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