Irene and Nate Stanley move to Oregon in search of a better life for themselves and their family. Irene is reluctant to leave her extended family, but believes in the hope that her husband gives her. Instead, what they get is a seemingly random housebreaking and the death of their son, Shep. The murderer Daniel Robbin is caught, but the death of a child is something that neither can really cope with – driving away their daughter, Bliss, and launching life-changing consequences for the family.
This was one of the first books I bought for my Kindle nearly a year ago, and all this time it’s simply sat there unread – a book that, like so many, loses its luster once acquired. Luckily, I was travelling and had nothing on me but the Kindle, so when everything else ALSO seemed to lose appeal (don’t we all hate it when that happens?) I finally opened this title and started to read. I’m glad I did – this was a powerful book with a surprise twist at the end that I hardly expected, but which really added to the strength of the entire book.
The novel is told through alternating viewpoints. Most of the book is from Irene’s perspective as she loses her son, with the occasional chapter from Bliss, and the rest of the book is told by Tab Mason, the man who has been ordered to kill Daniel Robbin. Robbin has been on death row for years and Tab has never been the one to actually kill a man, nor is he comfortable with it. This perspective provides a really fascinating and heartbreaking look into the toll the death penalty takes on the people who are actually required to follow through with it.
The main thrust of the storyline, though, is Irene’s personal struggle with the murder of her son and the incredibly difficult pain she has to go through as a mother. She essentially dies inside – at first, she lives for the fact that her son’s murderer is going to be killed, until she decides to forgive him on what would have been Shep’s 25th birthday. She writes him a letter and, surprisingly and secretly, she and Daniel begin corresponding. This leads to the biggest twist in the book, which I obviously won’t spoil for you. It’s a fascinating meditation on the power of forgiveness, though, and the strength of a mother’s love.
For a book I wasn’t actually sure I’d like after I bought it, The Crying Tree was a powerful surprise, and certainly one I’d recommend to those who aren’t afraid of tackling more difficult issues in their reading.
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