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The Memory Trees

Review

The Memory Trees

THE MEMORY TREES by Kali Wallace looks at the complicated history surrounding a deadly fire and the attempts made years later to reconcile what happened and the issues that triggered the tragedy.

Patience Lovegood died in a mysterious fire when she was 16-years-old; eight years later, her sister Sorrow returns to the small town that is still recovering from the tragedy. The book opens with Patience’s sister Sorrow returning to Vermont after eight years of living in Miami following Patience’s death. While Sorrow remembers some details of the tragedy that occurred and her life before it, being back, she now seeks the truth of what happened the night when her sister died, as well as answers to questions that have haunted her since she left.

"THE MEMORY TREES is reminiscent of a modernized version of Steinbeck’s EAST OF EDEN and is perfect for readers interested in a deep, feminist and thorough look into a long spanning multi-generational tale."

As Sorrow is thrown back into the town and begins her summer dealing with the town, she attempts to regain the memories she had forgotten from the trauma of her sister’s death. As Sorrow begins to regain her memory from the days surrounding her sister’s death, she inevitably brings to light hidden friendships, secrets and lies that all threaten to derail the accepted story of Patience’s death. The tumultuous rivalry between her family and the Abrams family comes under a microscope and is even more twisted than expected. Sorrow’s own mother Verity is unstable and dealing with her becomes a balancing act. The apple orchard itself seems to be trying to lead Sorrow to the truth. And all the while, accusation of witchcraft and murder swirl around town, arousing suspicion about the notorious and reclusive Lovegoods. Sorrow embarks on a mission to uncover what really happened the night of her sister’s death and refuses to let any social code or familial rivalry interfere. A sweeping multi-generational novel, THE MEMORY TREES explores the implications someone’s past has on their future and the difficulties of breaking long held traditions.

The characters and relationships are the strength of this novel. For a book centered on the history of a primarily female, there is a need for strong women and Wallace did not disappoint. Almost every major character in the book is a woman who has been through tragedy and hardships. The women feel brutally real, especially Cassie Abram and Sorrow Lovegood. Both girls felt the effects of Patience’s death and have to cope with it throughout the novel. While they turn to different methods, neither is idealized and Wallace highlights the difficulty of the exploration. The Lovegood-Abrams family rivalry is the most intriguing part of the book. The seemingly black and white hatred between families is torn apart throughout the novel in fascinating ways and creates multi-dynamic relationships in the place of the one dimensional ones presented at the beginning of the book. I love the way the rivalry unfolds because it gets increasingly personal as the generations progress: as the hate intensifies, so does the desire of the younger generations to communicate with the other side. Wallace weaves a beautiful and tragic rivalry replete with love, murder and heartbreak to make her book compelling.

While some of the scenes are incredibly compelling, the biggest issue with this book is the pacing. The book is beautifully written but rather long considering the amount of action scenes that happen. At points I found myself skimming through some pages in order to get to the next impactful scene and the length took away from my overall appreciation of the story.

Overall, THE MEMORY TREES is reminiscent of a modernized version of Steinbeck’s EAST OF EDEN and is perfect for readers interested in a deep, feminist and thorough look into a long spanning multi-generational tale.

Reviewed by Anna Kate L. on November 30, 2017

The Memory Trees
by Kali Wallace