The Stanley family – dad Nate, mom Irene, and their children Shep and Bliss, are happy living in their small Illinois town where they’ve always lived and where they are surrounded by loving family and friends. But when Nate accepts a deputy sheriff position in Oregon, Irene is less than pleased, but they uproot the kids anyway. Life moves along in Oregon, and although nobody is really happy there they are all doing okay – until one day tragedy strikes. Nate comes home to find fifteen-year-old Shep bleeding to death from a gunshot wound. After Shep’s death, the three remaining members of the Stanley family fall apart at the seams – Bliss finds herself taking care of her mother, who is obsessed with seeking vengeance for her son’s death and can concentrate on nothing else, while Nate does everything he can to “forget” about their past.
The Crying Tree is an absolutely fantastic novel, one that surprised me in its depth. When we first meet the Stanleys, it is clear that things are not going to go well for them in Oregon, and to be honest they aren’t a particularly likable group, but I still fell in with them right away. I clicked with this family for some strange reason, and because of that, I was completely involved in this story from the first page.
This is a very emotional story, as the Stanleys truly live in their grief – they never really get over Shep’s death, they don’t seem to be able to get past it, and Irene in particular has a difficult time for years after just going through the regular motions of life. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a sibling, or even worse, a child, but I could literally feel the grief the Stanleys experienced. The writing was so vivid that I felt as though this family was going through a real trauma, that this novel was in fact a true story.
While The Crying Tree deals with very serious and potentially upsetting subject matter, and the characters experience deep, heavy grief, the story isn’t as depressing as one might imagine. There are some real bits of hope sprinkled throughout, and especially towards the end, things definitely pick up for Irene, Nate, and Bliss. And the end came as a big shock to me – in a good way. The book wrapped itself up very nicely and I was happy to not feel depressed myself as I closed it for the last time. In fact, I felt more hopeful than anything else.
I strongly recommend reading The Crying Tree for yourself. It is an excellent, well-written novel with honest characters. Luckily for you, one of you will get to read it very soon because I have one paperback copy of The Crying Tree to give away! All you have to do is leave me a comment letting me know of your interest in the book. The giveaway is US/Canada only (apologies to my international readers) and it will close on Saturday, August 28 at midnight eastern standard time. Good luck!