Monday, 29 November 2010

The Crying Tree - Naseem Rakha

'The Crying Tree' is Naseem Rakha's first novel and follows the story of one family over three decades.  It deals with hidden secrets, guilt, sibling rivalry, favouritism and ultimately with the murder of a young boy and the grief and ways different members of the family deal with it.

The main theme in this novel is 'forgiveness', I could relate to the mother's grief, thankfully only to a certain point, and the blind love for her child.  The twist of the novel, however, blurred Irene Stanley's connection to her son Shep for me, as I'm sure a tuned in mother would have 'known'.

Back to forgiveness though, Irene is the focus of this as she battles to come to terms with the loss of her son but each character has to forgive on some level, the subplots here being Tab Mason, the Penitentiary 'keeper' of Daniel Robbin, the accused; Nate Stanley, the father and Shep's little sister 'Bliss'. It is interesting how they all develop and change over the course of the novel within their own stories and how it all comes together for all of them in quite a spiritual way for me, although reading it, I did think maybe some would interpret it as sentimental.

Call me morbid but I was quite fascinated by the life of  Daniel Robbin before and after his incarceration in the Oregon State Penitentiary and quite so by the procedure involved in the execution of someone by lethal injection. The guilt that Tab Mason feels about the final act after all those years is interesting alongside the need for a gallery of witnesses, the anonymity of the person who actually feeds the lethal drip and astonishingly, the presence of medical staff in case things go wrong and they need to resuscitate? By no means was the moral dilemma a main focus but it does throw up serious questions about the death penalty and did reinforce my opposement to it.

It is in no way a religious novel, however, spiritual themes, talk of God and church do come up in the course of the stories highlighting the hypocrisy and lack of 'forgiveness' in those who are supposed to be selling it to us all. Without giving too much away, the ending is a peaceful release for all of the characters and ties it all up with the words of 'Silent Night', call me sentimental but I liked that.

The novel is good but it didn't blow me away like some have; the twist in the tale as I touched on before undermined the mother's role and it could be argued undermined her forgiveness. Again though, with a spiritual spin, maybe she was tuned in and compelled to do what she did for Shep.

All in all, The Crying Tree is a fast paced novel, not perfect but I would recommend it.

Naseem Rakha: I did not write The Crying Tree to make a statement about the Death Penalty. Instead, I wanted people to confront the question of forgiveness. What does it look like, what does it take, and what can it possibly give? Intellectually, I oppose capital punishment. But, if faced with the murder of a loved one, I have no idea if my moral objections would stand up against my desire for vengeance. This is a question one hopes to never face, but perhaps through this book people will think more about their own capacity to live beyond loss.

 Q&A with Naseem on Amazon 

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