The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha, published August 2010 by Pan Publishing.
Read: July 2016
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: Irene Stanley thought her world had come to an end when her son Shep was murdered during a robbery at their home. 19 years later, Shep’s killer is placed on death row, awaiting a date for execution. Irene, having reached the brink of suicide, now realizes that she needs to face the secrets that surround her son’s murder.
When I first started blogging, and wasn’t as clued in to the hottest authors and latest releases, I used to purchase Book Collections from The Book People (I say used to, but I still buy those bad boys when a new one comes out, they’re excellent value and usually have great reads!). The Crying Tree was part of the Winter Warmers Collection. I was suffering a major book hangover after finishing Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (review to follow), and was perusing my TBR mountain to try and find something that grabbed me, and this was it.
I’m splitting this review into two sections. Where possible, I always try to review books without spoilers, but in some cases it isn’t possible to appreciate and rave about a book, without delving deeper into the plot and the secrets revealed as the story is told. I’m going to clearly indicate below where the spoiler section will start, so you can read up until that point knowing I’m not about to ruin this read for you. I feel this book also requires a trigger warning, however the trigger warning in itself is a spoiler, so it too will be included in the spoiler-full section below.
In The Crying Tree, chapters alternate between present day (in this case 2004), and when the murder took place (1983-1985). From the blurb, I thought this story was focusing on Irene Stanley, on her coming to terms with the murder of her son, and some secrets being revealed that would throw a spanner in the works. I was expecting a bit of a whodunnit. While there is that element to the story, to an extent, there is also so much more in these pages. We follow the life of Bliss, Shep’s sister, and learn about the impact of Shep’s murder on her, and we get an insight into the life of Superintendent Tab Mason, who is in charge of the precinct holding Shep’s killer, and who is also the man ultimately responsible for carrying out the execution.
I thought I knew what I was going to get with this read, but there is more than one story within these pages, all intricately layered and well woven. It just kept giving more. The alternating chapters covering multiple characters throughout two different timelines was expertly done through omniscient narrative. You may think it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it was actually pretty seamless. Rakha, a journalist who was inspired to write this novel while covering the first execution in Oregon in 30 years, wrote an emotionally charged novel, with a considered dialogue, and rich landscape. While this could be a difficult read at times due to the subject matter, I flew through it and could barely put it down.
While the book covers some difficult topics, and is a complex read in terms of the amount covered within 350 pages, at no time does it become confusing. This in itself is an achievement. I do feel some of the characters fit a certain stereotype, but it’s certainly one that is still prominent and exists, even if the book was set in 2004, and sadly even today in 2016. The Crying Tree is a poignant and thought-provoking read that will stay with me long after I’ve reviewed it.
**Warning – Spoilers Ahead**
So, let’s take a look at this read in a little more detail. Rakha touches on so many issues within this book, lingering on some more so than others, but not particularly delving into any in great detail, instead bringing them to the surface for the reader to consider and draw their own conclusions. In my case, it spurred me on to go and do some research of my own, which I always think is a sign of a great read. Considering the length of the book, Rakha manages to pack in quite a few controversial issues, from the war in Iraq, to homosexuality, the death penalty, to suicide, as well as the sexual abuse of a male minor (not necessarily associated with the characters you may imagine). I was not expecting the LGBT sub-plot. It’s not indicated anywhere on the blurb, or on Goodreads, which I think is quite interesting. I loved that LGBT concerns were an unexpected undercurrent in this read. Without wanting to sound like a privileged, white, cis-gendered and straight female (though no doubt doing so anyway), I felt this book gave me a genuine insight into some of the harsh and negative realities faced by members of the LGBT community, which a lot of reads with an LGBT nod seem to gloss over, or ignore completely, in the interests of being “diverse”.
Have you read The Crying Tree? What are your thoughts? Chat with me in the comments!