The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

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The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The nightmare of the murder of her son leads Irene Stanley into an unlikely friendship with his murderer. An impressive look at forgiveness, friendship and the secrets we keep from those we love. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230740846

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Irene Stanley had lived in Illinois all her life, on a farm which had been in her family for generations and where the boundary of the property was the Mississippi river. She had friends, family and her church in the area and it came as a shock when Nate came home one day and said that he was considering taking a job as a Deputy Sheriff in Oregon (that's pronounced Organ – only tourists say Or-ee-gon). It wasn't long before they and their children, Shep and Bliss, made the long overland journey to their new home. Shep was a quiet boy, a talented musician but against his mother's expectations he settled into his new life well. Irene wasn't totally convinced, but accepted that life wasn't too bad for the family. That all changed when she was called home from work to find that Shep had been murdered.

Shep and his mother had always been close and she was devastated by his death. For many years her grief and anger was pointed at the murderer, Daniel Robbin who was sentenced to death by lethal injection, but eventually she realised that if she was to live she had to forgive him. She wrote to Robbin on death row to tell him this and a correspondence grew up between the two, but this wasn't something that Irene felt able to share with her husband or her daughter. It's only as the superintendent of the state penitentiary prepares the procedure to administer the lethal injection that she realises how much she is against Robbin's death and that she must do something – anything – to try and prevent it.

I didn't intend to read this book. All I thought to do was to have a quick look and think about which reviewer would most enjoy the book. I was only planning to read the back of the book and the first few pages. That was yesterday afternoon. I finished the book in the early hours of this morning, begrudging every moment away from it.

Right from the beginning you know what is going to happen to Shep, the gentle boy who plays the trumpet like an angel, but it doesn't stop you hoping that there's some other explanation. Irene's grief is palpable and her longing to join Shep in the cemetery isn't just understandable – it seems the obvious thing to do. Bliss, Shep's younger sister, has her own ways of coping, of growing a protective shell around herself and Nate slumps back into his old life, a sadder man, when the family return to Illinois.

Whilst Irene is the star of the book the central character is Daniel Robbin, who as the time for his execution grows close has spent half his life on death row – a teenager when he killed Shep he's been appealing against his sentence for nineteen years but has now accepted his fate. He was no stranger to the law before the murder but has since become a model prisoner, spending his time reading and drawing. When the superintendent tells him the date for the execution, Robbin is concerned for the Tab Hunter and not himself.

It's a deceptively simple plot, but look closely and you'll realise the skill that's gone into the construction. Ends tie up – but not too tidily. Events have their own momentum and the plot never seem contorted to accommodate a situation. It's a book which will bear rereading – although I do hope that I don't cry like a baby at the end the next time round.

There's a searching look at the way that families interact and how the actions of one impact on all. It's an examination of the nature of friendship. Initially I thought that the idea of a mother befriending her son's murderer would be far-fetched and unbelievable, but as the circumstances surrounding Shep's death unravel it not only seems natural - it seems inevitable. It's excellent stuff.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy A Quiet Belief In Angels by R J Ellroy but The Crying Tree is far superior.

Booklists.jpg The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.
Buy The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha at

Buy The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha at


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