THE TREES by Ali Shaw


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An ecological sermon, bildungsroman, mystery, fairy tale, and horror story all combined into a novel about an improbable journey.

This book changes on you, quickly and constantly. It begins as a trite ecological fairy tale with simplistic dialogue and then suddenly pulls you into a world where direction shifts and the fear or euphoria you felt while reading the initial pages—depending on your political bent regarding humanity’s impact on nature—becomes much more complex and edgy. The writing evolves into something substantial. Ex-schoolteacher Adrien Thomas, rudderless and self-loathing, is full of angst about his wife Michelle’s business trip to Ireland. Suddenly the Earth erupts with trees, breaking homes, buildings, streets, and society to bits, and Adrien fears he may now be separated from his wife for a very long time. He meets a woman named Hannah and her son, Seb, in the ruins of the city and they decide to travel to find Hannah’s brother, Zach, a woodsman better suited for this new forest world. On their way they see that the tree apocalypse is everywhere, a world event. The journey is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as it turns violent and dark, not just beneath the gloaming of the tree canopy, but within each character’s moral center. There's murder, survival, and a grim new order—but magical realism turns it to hope, and some surreal and mythic animals and beings in the forest help fulfill the journey. By the end, Adrien becomes something very much other than the man who started the journey in the dead of night.

A big, unclassifiable novel; it's worth the effort to enter a world that is never what it appears.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63286-283-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2016


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