Review ♦ The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

About the Book

Irene and Nate Stanley are living a quiet and contented life with their two children, Bliss and Shep, on their family farm in southern Illinois when Nate suddenly announces he’s been offered a job as a deputy sheriff in Oregon. Irene fights her husband. She does not want to uproot her family and has deep misgivings about the move. Nevertheless, the family leaves, and they are just settling into their life in Oregon’s high desert when the unthinkable happens. Fifteen-year-old Shep is shot and killed during an apparent robbery in their home. The murderer, a young mechanic with a history of assault, robbery, and drug-related offenses, is caught and sentenced to death.
Shep’s murder sends the Stanley family into a tailspin, with each member attempting to cope with the tragedy in his or her own way. Irene’s approach is to live, week after week, waiting for Daniel Robbin’s execution and the justice she feels she and her family deserve. Those weeks turn into months and then years. Ultimately, faced with a growing sense that Robbin’s death will not stop her pain, Irene takes the extraordinary and clandestine step of reaching out to her son’s killer. The two forge an unlikely connection that remains a secret from her family and friends.
Years later, Irene receives the notice that she had craved for so long—Daniel Robbin has stopped his appeals and will be executed within a month. This announcement shakes the very core of the Stanley family. Irene, it turns out, isn’t the only one with a shocking secret to hide. As the execution date nears, the Stanleys must face difficult truths and find a way to come to terms with the past.

Book Title: The Crying Tree Genre: Fiction
Author: Naseem Rakha Type: Hardcover 368 Pages
Publisher: Broadway Books Publication Date: July 2009

My Thoughts

MOTIVATION FOR READING:     I really enjoy this type of family drama that deals with real-life issues. It’s always interesting to see what can happen within a group of relatives when tragedy strikes. Finding out how they manage to go on with life in the aftermath.

WHAT IT’s ABOUT:     The full synopsis is up above. Basic idea of the plot: A man decides to move his family away from their hometown, although wife and children are not so happy with the decision. Once they become settled in, the son is killed during a home burglary, husband/father cannot revive son once he arrives on scene. A young man is charged with murder and sentenced to death, but many years pass before his actual execution date is appointed. The story narrative follows the family, the murderer and the executioner.

WHAT’s GOOD:     The entire story encompasses three decades, from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s but instead of being told in a linear fashion, every few chapters it flips back and forth to bring the entire story into focus. This was done really well, and helped to break up the plot and the different characters points of view. But what I enjoyed the most was the perspectives this book focused on, there is the guilt of a father who couldn’t save his son, the anger and loss of a mother, the sister who feels less visible than her dead brother, and the executioner who isn’t sure how he feels about what he does, but knows he must do it with respect and kindness. There is of course the killer as well, but the reader learns more about him from the others than straight from him, which I thought was a really great way to present him.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    The story moves along really well, and I was pulled right into it, even though there is a hint of what will happen, it was still interesting to make my way to that point. Then towards the end there’s a twist thrown in. The problem I had with the twist was that it completely took away from the main issues of the story up to that point. The twist is something that would have been controversial during that particular time and place, but rather than adding another insight into the story it seemed like a money shot – a cheap shock for shock value only. Up until that point I was really enjoying the novel and all the possible opinions that characters deal with about death, murder, state executions. However, with that one twist my interest fell, because the serious tone was lost behind the supposed sensationalism of the surprise revelation.

FINAL THOUGHTs:    Excellent plot, really great writing and an interesting mixture of characters. The Crying Tree was a quick and easy read, that I loved about 75% of the way. The twist was the 25% I thought the story would have been more powerful without. It seemed like an unnecessary controversy when the basic ideas were already thought-provoking enough.

About The Author

Naseem is an award-winning journalist whose stories have been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace Radio, Christian Science Monitor, and Living on Earth. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and many animals. When Naseem isn’t writing, she’s reading, knitting, hiking, gardening, or just watching the seasons roll in and out.


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Veens said...

I also actually enjoy this type of family drama that deals with real-life issues!

I think I will enjoy it :)
Thank You for reviewing this one!

Lady Lazarus said...

Good review :-)

If you like this kind of story, might I recommend 'Reservation Road' by John Burnham Schwartz?

It centers around two families after the son from the first family is killed in a hit and run. The driver is the father from the second family.

I think you'd enjoy it if you liked The Crying Tree.

Anonymous said...

So what's the meaning of the title? just curious.

Dar said...

Nice review style Joanne. I've got this one in my pile and I'm looking forward to it. Family dramas are one of my faves as well.

Joanne said...

@ Veens - I hope you do enjoy it :)

@ Lady Lazarus - Glad to hear the recommendation, Reservation Road is on my tbr list!

@ Care - Beside the son's grave is a tree. It is mentioned as looking as though it cries.

@ Dar - I love reading about families because each member is like an individual piece, but put all together they change the dynamic of the whole.

Vasilly said...

This sounds like a great read! I'm going to see if my library has it. Great review!

Lenore said...

The death penalty is always a hot topic in our family. Half for it, half against it.

naida said...

It does sound good, even if the twist at the end wasnt all that great.
nice review!

Belle said...

I don't often read novels like this one - I tend to steer away from anything too intense. But I'm very intrigued now that I've read your review. I think I'll keep my eye out for this one.

bermudaonion said...

You've made me very curious about the twist.

Ali said...

Hey, you found me another Oregon author! Cool.

Tara SG said...

Great review! I'm so happy I stumbled across your blog :)