Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
|Far from the Tree by Robin Benway|
|Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam|
|Summary: A fabulous meditation on family, in all its many forms, from an author on top of her game. Recommended!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: February 2018|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK|
|External links: Author's website|
Having just given up her new-born baby for adoption, 16-year-old Grace is desperate to look for the one person who could truly understand how she feels. The birth mother that gave her up for adoption when she was a baby. What Grace doesn't expect, is to discover that she has siblings. A confident, loud-mouthed younger sister, Maya, adopted by a wealthy family living just twenty minutes away. And Joaquin, their stoic older brother, hardened by seventeen years in and out of foster care.
Each sibling comes with their own emotional baggage. Grace is still recovering from the pregnancy that has turned her life inside out, the pain from giving up her daughter still fresh, the resulting distance from her parents and friends leaving her feeling isolated and untethered. Meanwhile, Maya's picture-perfect adoptive family is starting to show cracks. Her parents spend hours screaming at each other, and she feels more distant than ever from her sister, Lauren. And Joaquin, despite having lived for two years with Mark and Linda, a wonderfully kind couple who are by all means perfect for him, can't put aside a paranoia built up from years of hurt and rejection, convinced that he is cursed to ruin everything.
Drawn together in this period of emotional upheaval, the three of them are wary at first. However, as they tentatively get to know each other, they grow to realise that they can be there for each other, because family is family – even when it comes in the form of newfound half-siblings whose existence comes as a complete surprise.
Ahh, I really enjoyed this! Having read Emmy & Oliver by the same author a couple of years ago, I came in expecting vividly drawn characters and a heartfelt story, but Far from the Tree' steps it up another level!
Gorgeous writing knits together a rich patchwork quilt, formed from an array of colourful, diverse, unconventional relationships. At the core of it is the wonderful bond that develops between Grace, Maya and Joaquim. Seeing the three siblings come together is an absolute joy. Their distinctive personalities bounce and spark off each other remarkably well. But there's also so much to enjoy and appreciate in the diversity of relationships they have with their respective adopted families, demonstrating how loving parents can come in many different forms, as well as with their respective love interests, ranging from steady to nascent to seemingly broken beyond repair.
The story is a slow-burner, but one that's filled with powerful emotional beats. Having spent his entire childhood without ever belonging, never having somewhere he could genuinely call home, Joaquin's story shines a stark spotlight on just how easy it is to take home and family for granted, and had me swallowing down lumps in my throat more than once. Just as compelling and evocative, are Grace's struggles to deal with the overwhelming bundle of loss, guilt and worry that consume her whenever she thinks about her baby and its future. And I loved the exploration of the effect that Grace and Joaquin's appearance has on Maya's relationship with Lauren, one already strained by the pressure of dealing with their mum's alcoholism.
Far from the Tree is an unapologetic tearjerker, and while there were a few moments that strayed a tad towards saccharine/melodrama, for the most part I thought it was a beautifully told story that positively glows with warmth. Recommended!
My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag!
Fans of this might want to check out All About Mia by the wonderful Lisa Williamson; in a rather remarkable coincidence, it also involves three siblings, one of whom is also called Grace, and also becomes pregnant! You also can't go wrong with I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson or Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, both utterly gorgeous reads with wonderful family relationships left, right and centre.
You can read more book reviews or buy Far from the Tree by Robin Benway at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Far from the Tree by Robin Benway at Amazon.com.
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