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The Memory Trees Hardcover – October 10, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—A family feud lasting 12 generations is at the heart of this introspective novel. Eight years ago, Sorrow Lovegood's 16-year-old sister was killed in a fire, her mother suffered a nervous breakdown, and Sorrow was taken away to live with her father in Florida. Now Sorrow, at 16, returns to the Vermont apple orchard where she grew up in order to fill in the hazy parts of her memory. She is immediately reminded of the fierce animosity between her historically matriarchal clan and the neighboring Abrams family, who have been trying to take the Lovegood land for centuries. Flashbacks of Sorrow's reclusive ancestors depict many hardships, including the murder of nine-year-old twins by an Abrams man and a Lovegood mother who killed her children rather than have them starve during a harsh winter. Slowly, Sorrow begins to piece together what happened during the last days of her sister's life, and her own role in the tragic events. But a startling suicide and more heartrending revelations occur before understanding and healing can finally begin. The slow-paced, mostly quiet narrative is interrupted several times by short bursts of anger that generally involve Sorrow or another character uncharacteristically flinging F-bombs. This brooding tale of a strange family and its secrets may appeal to readers who enjoy lyrical stories of grief and redemption. VERDICT A good choice for large YA collections.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
★ “An absorbing, lyrically drawn mystery, examination of grief, and cautionary tale.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“From the tenderness and toxicity that can simultaneously exist in families, to the rippling effect of mental illness, to the search for a solid identity among all those jagged pieces, The Memory Trees has a lot to unpack with a hint of magical realism and mystique.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review))
“This brooding tale of a strange family and its secrets may appeal to readers who enjoy lyrical stories of grief and redemption.” (School Library Journal)
“Wallace has created a fascinating matriarchal backstory with touches of magical realism that will appeal to readers of Alice Hoffman.” (Booklist)
“This is a dark and brooding mystery about a matrilineal family steeped in tragedy, but a hopeful ending honors the enduring power of love and resilience.”
(The Horn Book)
“No one writes creepy, beautiful stories like Wallace does – she expertly weaves love, loss, compassion, and murder in a way that will both move you to tears and have you sleeping with the lights on. The Memory Trees will keep you guessing until the very end.” (Adriana Mather, author of How to Hang a Witch)
“A gorgeously crafted, sumptuously layered novel that masterfully peels back the layers of love, loss and endurance harnessed by twelve generations of brave, magical Lovegood women. The Memory Trees is a stunning powerhouse of a book. It is timeless. It is beautiful. It is a gift.” (Shannon M. Parker, author of The Rattled Bones)
“A fast-paced story with an interesting hook, and a thoughtful look at what it means to be human versus what it means to be a monster. The end result is a superbly crafted debut bound to entrance.” (Booklist (starred review) on Shallow Graves)
“Kali Wallace has created a world that’s both natural and unsettling …and reminds us with Breezy’s story that true terror is not a monster, but what lurks in the dark corners of human nature.” (Madeleine Roux, New York Times bestselling author of the Asylum series, on Shallow Graves)
“Constantly entertaining, intriguing, and suspenseful.” (Kirkus on Shallow Graves)
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There are women in this book.
Lots of beautiful, enduring women who carve their own fate.
There are women who love women and women who love men.
Women who love daughters and daughters who try to protect that love at any cost.
And these women live and love upon a fertile patch of Vermont land where the very past vibrates in the soil as the orchard moans, mourns and loves.
Sorrow Lovegood’s quest to find the truth of her own story—and marry it to the stories of generations of Lovegood women who came before—is beautiful. It is heartbreaking and powerful. Wallace deftly explores really heavy themes in this book: divorce, mental health, death and loss, dysfunctional families, complicated familial relationships, and finding one’s voice. But Wallace also manages to weave such magnificent hope within the story and Sorrow’s quest. Because the orchard is a thrilling, vibrant heartbeat of love and life and loss; the trees pay attention to the rhythms of love in all the ways that humans should pay attention to this magnificent force.
Wallace’s sophomore novel is brilliant. Wallace is capable and confident in her rich prose and her resilient, brilliant female characters reminded me of the richly drawn women brought to us by authors such as Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Isabel Allende. This book has my whole heart. I recommend this book for teens, but also for adults. It is a stunning powerhouse of a book. It is timeless. It is beautiful. It is a gift.
The problem with The Memory Trees is that it gets too lost in the atmosphere and only occasionally returns to the plot to progress it. It is not even about character development - it just feels like it is trying to establish the setting of the book. And for a person like me, who prefers the setting work towards the plot instead of the reverse, I was, in a word, bored. The actual exciting elements did not arrive until, like, the last third of the book, so until then you are just hanging around wondering what happened that night. The story is pretty good, and I loved the details that went into constructing the characters of each era, but it is mostly drifting in the book. Each of the women in the flashbacks faced challenges, primarily because they were women and tied to their family. That is their shared legacy - that they would always be considered witches by the townspeople, and they would always feel a part of their lands. The supernatural element is very subtle and I think it hardly matters to the plot. Eventually, superfluous writing kept me from fully enjoying the story.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Katherine Tegen Books, via Edelweiss.