The Forgetting Tree: Book summary and reviews of The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli

The Forgetting Tree

A Novel

By Tatjana Soli

The Forgetting Tree
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013,
    432 pages.

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About this book

Book Summary

From The New York Times bestselling author of The Lotus Eaters, a novel of a California ranching family, its complicated matriarch and an enigmatic caretaker who may destroy them.

When Claire Nagy marries Forster Baumsarg, the only son of prominent California citrus ranchers, she knows she's consenting to a life of hard work, long days, and worry-fraught nights. But her love for Forster is so strong, she turns away from her literary education and embraces the life of the ranch, succumbing to its intoxicating rhythms and bounty until her love of the land becomes a part of her. Not even the tragic, senseless death of her son Joshua at kidnappers' hands, her alienation from her two daughters, or the dissolution of her once-devoted marriage can pull her from the ranch she's devoted her life to preserving.

But despite having survived the most terrible of tragedies, Claire is about to face her greatest struggle: An illness that threatens not only to rip her from her land but take her very life. And she's chosen a caregiver, the enigmatic Caribbean-born Minna, who may just be the darkest force of all.

Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together.

Browse an excerpt on the author's website.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"With her knack for beautiful prose and striking detail, this is a solid follow-up to her debut." - Publishers Weekly

"A lush, haunting novel for readers who appreciate ambiguity, this work should establish Soli as a novelist with depth and broad scope." - Library Journal

"Soli writes with such passion, it is inescapable, lyrical, and profoundly moving. The Forgetting Tree goes on my top-ten list." - Jonis Agee, author of The River Wife

"Tatjana Soli's elegant and sensuous prose will keep you spellbound." - Maria Semple, author of This One Is Mine

"An incredible book, richly imagined and beautifully written." - Nancy Zafris, series editor, The Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Diane S.
Love this author
This was the ideal book for me at a time when I am recovering from a serious illness and hospital stay. A truly complex novel that can be read in many ways, with an extremely strong woman character who pushes things to the limits and beyond. What it means to love the land, family, strengths and ties, to fight for what one believes in and to not give in just because others believe one should. Soli takes this woman, her motivations and tears them down than rebuilding them into a new form. A serious tragedy almost costs this woman her sanity, costs her family much more and only the land, the citrus groves, the belonging to something bigger than herself saves her that time. Than a serious illness threatens once again all she holds dear and this novel takes a bizarre and strange turn. A woman comes to be a companion and caretaker as she fights the invader to her body and the novel shows us the power of letting go. As the groves rot from the outside, the situation with the young woman from Haiti turns serious and quite scary. Are these woman really demented or is there some sense in the way they feel? What can possibly be the outcome of this strange pairing? Why is her family not stepping in and taking over? So many questions, so complex the problems and yet how satisfying, though strange this original and powerful book.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Louise J
Magical!
The Forgetting Tree was majestic, monumental, and magical!! An incredibly complex story with well-developed characters, the story basically focuses on two women: Claire, a white-woman dealing with cancer, and Minna, a black-woman who is Claire’s caretaker.

Claire met and fell in love with Forster Baumsarg who owned a large citrus farm in California. Claire gave up her literary studies to marry him she was so enamoured. Early on in the story, Claire must deal with every mother’s nightmare – coping with the death of a child. Her young son, Joshua, is found dead near a lemon tree. Claire, already struggling with her loss ends up having to fight breast cancer and keep her family’s citrus farm together regardless of the financial or emotional toll.

Minna, makes for an interesting character. Originally from the Caribbean and having suffered through a rather rough life, she ends up in California. She meets one of Claire’s daughters in Starbucks one day and is hired as her caretaker while fighting breast cancer.

Minna tells Claire that she is the great-granddaughter of author, Jean Rhys, who wrote ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s famous Jane Eyre, focusing on the “crazy woman in the attic.” Minna herself reminds you of that “crazy woman in the attic.” Minna quickly gains Claire’s trust and is soon mixing up elixirs and other concoctions and potions for her to drink as part of her cancer cure. The two women are both damaged but Claire continues to allow Minna to call all the shots.

I can’t get into too much more about this story without creating serious spoilers but this is simply a book you MUST read.

The Forgetting Tree was masterfully and skillfully written and kept me turning pages late into the night. I haven’t read Soli’s first novel ‘The Lotus Eaters’ but will be doing so now.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Mary Q. (Greeley, CO)
The Forgetting Tree
I was immediately drawn to this book because of its gorgeous cover and the fact that I'd read and loved Tatjana Soli's other novel, The Lotus Eaters. This one I liked slightly less, but it generally kept my interest and educated me in various ways. At certain moments I felt frustrated with the time frames abruptly going back and forth -- I didn't feel a good flow as a result. But it was an interesting story with well-defined characters, and Tatjana Soli writes SO well. All in all, I'm glad I read this book and will recommend it to my friends who enjoy the types of books I do.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Gwendolyn D. (Houston, TX)
Lyrical family epic
I really enjoyed reading about this farming family, particularly the strong matriarch. The first part of the novel was entertaining and heartbreaking. The last third of the book takes a dark turn that I wasn't expecting. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, but the last third was a little tough to get through for me.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Martha D. (Poway, CA)
I'm still not sure...
...what I felt about this story. I was both fascinated and frustrated by Claire and her dedication to her land. I did find both Claire and Minna's story in the second half of the book, as another reviewer said, "haunting" and rather "spooky". And the end left me with many questions, which is not always a bad thing. I am still thinking about it so that says something about the story.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Mary H. (Phoenix, AZ)
An unpredictable personal influence.
This story takes the reader on a journey that tests the origins of our faith and belief in a positive future. How much mental and physical stress can a person endure and still display hope. The magic of personal belief and the ability to demonstrate an understanding of what is truly important in one's life. Family, physical possessions, health, wealth, memories and trust build this complex story. You will not be disappointed and you may even gain a new perspective on your own life. The book is most enjoyable.

...29 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Tatjana Soli Author Biography

Tatjana Soli is a novelist and short story writer. Her bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, winner of the James Tait Black Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book for 2010 and finalist for the LA Times Book Award among other honors. Her second book, The Forgetting Tree, is a New York Times Notable Book for 2012. Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun. Her work has been twice listed in the 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories. She lives with her husband in Southern California.

Link to Tatjana Soli's Website

Other books by Tatjana Soli at BookBrowse
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