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Far from the Tree: 09/18/06

Far from the Tree

A common theme in the "women's fiction" genre is the multi-generational story, usually focused on the women of those generations. Far from the Tree is no exception to this rule and the men in the book have maybe five percent of dialogue (if that). The bulk of the story is centered around Della, her daughters Celeste and Ronnie, and her grand-daughter Nikki.

The authors set out at first to show how vastly different each woman is and how they all crave independence from the family. Over the course of the book, of course, the women come to realize that they aren't so different after all. That's one main flaw with the book; the characters are more interesting when they are striving to be individuals. When they start to finally communicate and realize that they're all like Della or had experiences (good and bad) nearly identical to Della's, they become less believable as cookie-cutter clones of each other. Why does this genre seem to dictate that all daughters are like their mothers and all sisters are ultimately seeking the same sort of life? It would be far more interesting and rewarding to read a story where the women were actually different even if they did share the same family.

Here's my BookCrossing Review:

As the German saying goes, Der Apffel fellt nicht weit vom Baum (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree), and DeBerry and Grant's novel of four generations of women take this idea and try to create a heartwarming but cautionary tale about the dangers of keeping secrets. Years of secret keeping starts to unravel after the death of the patriarch, Will. His death brings to light an old house Della, the wife and mother to Celeste and Ronnie and grandmother to Nikki, had long since put from her memory, fleeing it 41 years earlier. As so much of the present conflict hinges on these past secrets, the early part of the book is bogged down with often times confusing flashbacks that start and end without much warning or segue. It took me until about chapter six or seven to be able to tell the characters apart as the timelines are so jumbled before proper character development is completed.

Once though the house is mentioned, the story gains the needed focus and the characters have a chance to grow and interact in a coherent manner. It is the house that kept me interested in the book more than any other element in the novel. Were it not for the house I would have abandoned the book before even hitting page 100.

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