Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: The Roots of the Olive Tree

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo
Genre: Women's Fiction
Pages: 306 (paperback)
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Buy it: Amazon | Kindle ($1.99 right now)| B&N | Book Depo

Meet the Keller family, five generations of firstborn women living together in the same house on a secluded olive grove int he Sacramento Valley of Northern California.  Anna, the family matriarch, is 112 and determined to become the oldest person in the world.  Strong in mind and firm in body, she rules Hill House, the family home she shares with her daughter Bets, granddaughter Callie, great-granddaughter Deb, and great-great-granddaughter Erin.
While the Keller women are bound by blood, living together has not always been asy.  And it is about to become more complicated now that Erin, the youngest, is back, alone and pregnant, after two years abroad with an opera company.  Her return and the arrival of a geneticist who has come to study the family's unusual longevity ignites explosive emotions that these women have kept buried and uncovers revelations that will shake them all to their roots.

My Rating:

My Review:
In Roots of the Olive Tree we follow five women as the navigate their life's challenges and secrets.  Anna, the matriarch, simply wants to live long enough to be the oldest person alive.  When a geneticist arrives looking to discover the secret to both their longevity and their good health, she withholds perhaps the biggest secret of all.  Bets, Anna's daughter, keeps the secrets and soothes the hearts of everyone but her own daughter.  Callie, Bet's daughter, lives a life of emptiness. After a airplane crash that changes Callie's life forever, Callie relies on prescription pills to get her through life.  Deb, Callie's daughter, has been in prison for the last twenty years wanting to be free to be with her daughter.  And finally, Erin, Deb's daughter, finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy and a void from growing up without her parents.  The women grow up and older together but separate as they don't always understand the choices of the others.  Amid a story about generations of women, we find an understated history of the importance of the olive tree to the Keller women.

It's very difficult to describe and review a book such as this, but I enjoyed every turn of the page.  I didn't love all of the women but I loved the premise.  I loved that Anna was 112 years old and that her perspective and history contrasted with Erin's 22 year old life and decisions.  Every time I opened the book, I never really know what would happen next.  Everything happened in a quite way.  Even major events seemed written to be understated and simple.  Sometimes I had to reread a paragraph to ensure I really did read it right.  Every few chapters or so we'd see the next part of the story told from a different point of view until we had traveled the story through the lens of all the women.  I liked this method but not all of the characters were created equal so I enjoyed some perspectives more than others.  Additionally, each switch in perspective also corresponded in a jump in time.  This felt unnecessary and I started to feel like I was just being moved along.  Each character usually ended on some dramatic note, yet the reader didn't get to pick up where the character left off.   It left me feeling unsatisfied.  The historical aspect and flashbacks were one of my favorite parts of this read.

Overall, I enjoyed the premise and felt like this read stands out leading to an enjoyable reads.  It certainly could have been more fleshed out but I'd still recommend it.

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  1. Maybe, maybe not, I am very undecided

  2. I'll keep an eye out for it.
    Your blog is fantastic!

  3. Interesting. It sounds like it might be OK for a lazy summer afternoon when you want something that grabs your attention but doesn't hold on too tight. I'm not sure I'd enjoy the perspective/time switch either - sounds too manipulative. Rookie mistake from a debut author?

    1. It is good for a lazy summer. Honestly it was a good book that had the potential to be an awesome one.

  4. Great review. I debated this one. : )

  5. My Gram is 89 and my son is 11, and the difference in perspective between the two of them is rather interesting to say the least. :)

    I'm glad you enjoyed this book! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  6. I read this a while back but I remember really liking it. I do remember though wishing it had been a bit longer.


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