TREE SURGERY FOR BEGINNERS by Patrick Gale

TREE SURGERY FOR BEGINNERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A New Age-ish road novel by English writer Gale (Secret Lives, 1994, etc.), who here describes how a murder suspect's attempts to clear his name ultimately offer him a new life. Lawrence Frost is one of those Englishmen who are never really happy unless they're mucking about in a pair of dirty Wellies on an overcast day. A tree surgeon, Lawrence is married to landscaper Bonnie, and the two of them work from time to time for Craig McBride, an American architect. Although they're blessed with two fine children, Lawrence and Bonnie have not been getting along all that well lately, and when Lawrence suspects that Bonnie has been carrying on with Craig, he loses his temper and hits her. She falls, breaks a tooth, then stomps off in a huff. The next knock on the door is the police, who come two days later in response to a missing person's complaint filed by Bonnie's father. A fragment of tooth and a bloody mess on the kitchen counter are not easily explained away, and when a woman's corpse is discovered in the woods nearby, Lawrence finds himself in a predicament. Of course he was in the woods that day--that's his job, after all. It turns out that Bonnie is safe and that the corpse is someone else, but by then Lawrence has had enough. To forget the ordeal, he takes a Caribbean cruise and has a shipboard romance with Lala, a famous singer. Instead of bringing him happiness, however, the affair only compounds his confusion. So he leaves Lala and goes on to the Cliff ranch, an alternative therapy center in California, where, amid the giant redwood trees, he uncovers the roots of his dissatisfactions. Entertaining but vapid: a quest novel that can't justify the final object of its search. Go back to The Razor's Edge if you want to see how this sort of thing is done.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: "Faber/Farrar, Straus & Giroux"