“Remarkable….This ambitious novel soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This is a richly worded, ambitious, passionate treatise on the importance of trees in our life and why we must not just step up our efforts to preserve them but actually revere them for all they give us.
Told through the stories of nine men and women who realize their affinity to this gift of nature in different ways throughout their life, this story opens our eyes to the damage we have wrought on nature in our quest for a better life containing more.
There is the man who inherits an album containing photos taken over almost a century of the same tree in the family land. Flipping through the photos makes this chestnut tree that has survived the rot that took most others of its kind, come alive, seem to reach for the sky and grow. The airforce veteran who survives certain death when his fall from his plane is broken by a tree, decides to give back by repopulating massive clearings in the forest only to realise that this gives lumber companies the go ahead to cut more of the older trees. The college student who is electrocuted and then miraculously revived, hears the trees calling out to her to be saved. The daughter of a Chinese immigrant cannot get over the razing to the ground of the trees that gave her comfort after a tragic loss. The Indian American whiz at coding feels a calling to make his best selling game more meaningful by incorporating actual nature and its challenges in it and making gamers strive to find solutions.
A scientist strives to explain how even dead trees are important for the ecosystem.
Together, all of these people try to halt the destruction of the plant universe in whichever way they can adopt. Along the way, they, and through them, we, learn that there is no limit to human greed that does not want to stop taking what cannot be easily replenished, despite knowing the truth. They are reviled as working against progress but all they want is to tell the world that it is necessary to ensure sustainability.
Because the truth is “No one sees trees. We see fruit, we see nuts, we see wood, we see shade. We see ornaments or pretty fall foliage. Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. Dark threatening places that must be cleared. We see branches about to crush our roof. We see a cash crop. But trees — trees are invisible”
Beautifully written and very relevant, this is a book to be savoured and its lessons imbibed because it is high time we realized that “This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees where humans have just arrived”.
Added 21st May 2020
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This homage to trees is an extraordinary achievement by the author. Coming in at 502 pages the first part of this book reads like a book of short stories about individuals whose lives begin to be affected by trees, whether it’s being protected from a parachute fall, to sisters each having a separate tree planted for them in their backyard to the young man who learns how to write code by his father who explains how the roots of the programming branch out, just like the roots of the trees, to the family out in the Midwest that has a lone chestnut tree standing on their property and how this tree is photographed constantly over the Lifetime of those who love it to display a history of the growth of this tree.
Nice stories to be sure, but none seem to be connected until the second part of the book where many of the individuals will meet somewhere along the line and will join together to help fight for the lives of trees and survival of our environment.
The importance of trees comes alive in the second half of the book, and the lengths these people will go to protect them from being cut down and eventually eradicated from the earth are extraordinary, and sometimes unlawful. The story will take place over most of the lives of these individuals, some to their actual end. Tragedy, success, wealth and living off the land are all conditions that some of the characters portrayed here will experience, but the one constant is their love and dedication to the tree.
There will be much to learn here about how the trees can communicate and interact with each other, and how even dead trees when they fall are necessary for the growth of the forest and all the life that exists in that forest.
A mind opening story written with an expertise by a terrific writer who never allows you to get bored with this subject as his great narrative draws you into the lives of these individuals and the lives of the trees they love.
Added 2nd August 2018