Family Tree by Susan Wiggs
Published Jul 28, 2016 by William Morrow
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Listened to on Audiobook, Narrated by Christina Traister
Hello Friends! After recently finishing Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs, I wanted to tackle the other novel by her that has been sitting on my shelf for a while. Family Tree had elements to it that took me a while to get used to, but at the end of this story I was thoroughly satisfied. It was such a joy to read. I highly recommend checking out the audiobook from your local library being that the narrator did a fantastic job!
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a powerful, emotionally complex story of love, loss, the pain of the past—and the promise of the future.
Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.
Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.
Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.
It took me a while to get used to the chapters jumping from present day to flashbacks in Family Tree. I tend to love when a story is structured in this way but I think my love for this kind of structure causes me to also not always feel like a story needs to have it. This is how I felt for probably the first half of the book but after reaching a little over halfway through, it grew on me and I began to appreciate it for what it was. This kind of structure helped really fill in the gaps.
In the first half of the book, Annie, our main character is recovering from a year long coma. We as the reader witness the moments when she is trying to open her eyes, trying to speak, all the way to the moments of her taking her first steps and eventually trying to remember her life. She kind of had it all. She was the behind the scenes of a hit television cooking show where her now ex husband Martin was the star. She comes from a loving family back in Vermont, and she learns that she is pregnant. Then the accident happens. A piece of machinery falls on her head sending her into a coma that no one believes she will recover from. Her husband files for divorce and flies her home to her family.
Where the flashbacks come in are with Fletcher. Fletcher is Annie’s first love. From the moment we meet Fletcher, you just feel that these two are meant to be together and Susan Wiggs did such a fabulous job of making me feel nostalgic for that young, reckless love when you felt that the two of you would be together forever. You really feel that with the younger versions of Annie and Fletcher. Things happen though. Fletcher’s Dad has an accident and Fletcher is set on ensuring his dad sees justice and is taken care of so he refuses to leave their small town. Annie has a scholarship to a college off in the big city and really wants to pursue her dreams but also considers staying in their town of Switchback for a year to be with Fletcher. The two really try and figure out ways to put their lives together.
This story shows Annie and Fletcher multiple times trying to be together and things just getting in the way. It really captured that frustration and confusion that comes with chasing your dreams, which may cause you to separate from the one you love because their dreams are different than yours. It captures how for some, part of their dreams are staying put while the other half’s may mean going away. And poses the question of, at what point do you just give up or find a way to have both? The dream and the one you love.
In this novel, Annie’s Gran has already passed away but I loved her love for her Grandmother. I absolutely adore my Grandmother and can’t imagine my life without her, so reading about how close Annie was with her Gran was such a joy.
I loved how important the role of food in this story was. As Annie’s memory starts coming back to her, her love for cooking and how food brings people together was one of the first things that came to her. She cooked a lot with her Grandmother while growing up and I loved how that is something her Grandmother was able to pass down to her. Literally, some of Annie’s meals in this book made my stomach growl.
Annie gets her Happy ever After but another character did too. Annie’s parents! I didn’t expect that small twist in the end but I thought it was well done and it made me so happy.
Having survived her accident and trying to piece her life together, Annie really wants to be her own woman. Her ex husband took so much from her–while they were married, he would take her ideas and not give her credit. And he knew she’s out star him so he ensured she was the behind the scenes girl. Understandably, Annie really wants to find herself and make her own way. This book really solidifies that sometimes you have to start from scratch, and that’s totally okay.
I think this is the perfect book to add to your fall tbr. All the descriptions of making and eating maple syrup with the mountains in the background put me in such the fall mood. Anytime of year is good for a sweet, cozy romance like this one but there is something about all the food descriptions and family that made me think this will always be a contender for rereading in the Autumn.
Give it a try.