Gripping, suspenseful, magical, and richly atmospheric—a story told from several distinct and unforgettable viewpoints—Ilie Ruby’s haunting debut novel, THE LANGUAGE OF TREES is exhilarating fiction that announces the arrival of a truly extraordinary storyteller.
In the sprawling lake region of Canandaigua, New York—a place where some families have secrets they would do anything to keep—little Luke Ellis disappeared. Now, over a decade later, his teenage sister, Melanie, has vanished, abandoning her infant son. As the frantic search for Melanie ensues, Grant Shongo, a Seneca healer, finds himself caught up by a spirit that draws him into a world where nature and the spiritual realm are intertwined and nothing is as it seems. It is only with the help of his childhood love, Echo O'Connell, that the mystery of the Ellis children can be put to rest. But before the healing must come the forgiveness. Written in a magic realist vernacular, THE LANGUAGE OF TREES examines the tremulous bonds between parents and children, lovers and friends, and restless spirits—both living and not. It is a story that will make you believe that the spirits of those we love watch over us, that people can heal each other, and that if you can truly forgive yourself, the world will return to you all of your forgotten dreams.
I don't know what it is but 2010 has so far been producing a wonderful array of debut writers. I'm obviously not complaining, I'm actually loving it. For an avid reader like me, it's always great to experience a work of such talent as Ilie Ruby's. And to read The Language of Trees by Ms. Ruby, it truly is an experience, and one that I will not soon forget.
Simply put, The Language of Trees took me by surprise and in the end I realized I cared for the story, for the people in it more than I had thought I would when I began reading the novel. I admit that the beginning was a little difficult for me to get get through but I didn't have to wait long to be rewarded. Only after fifty pages or so, the story took off and took me to unexpected places. I was rooting for pretty much every character in there because Ms. Ruby somehow made them all important in their own right, just like in real life, everyone you encounter on your path is significant in one way or another even if you're not aware of it.
There's Melanie, the former drug addict who is not physically present for most of the novel but the more she's searched for by her mother and her life partner, Lion, the more I got to know her, care for her and feel for her pain. Lion is an altogether different story. He might very well be my most favorite person from the book (although there are quite a few strong contenders), mostly because his love for Melanie is almost supernatural, it's so strong and he hurts so much when he can't find her. I won't even tell you how many times I've come close to having my heart broken. I won't describe every character here for you even though I'm tempted because they are all worth the time and attention, I just don't want to spoil your reading.
Characters are not the only things worth talking about in The Language of Trees. I admit that I am a fan of magic realism and I was thrilled to find elements of it in Ms. Ruby's novel. Especially because it was pulled off really well and it was convincing, which is not an easy feat in my opinion. The reference and big influence of Native American, specifically Senecan, mythology on the story is yet another great part of the book. I somehow can never get enough of Native American traditions and culture, they hold that special mystic atmosphere for me which always makes a book richer if introduced adequately. Last but not least, the writing is simply magical. I found myself contemplating individual sentences and paragraphs many times before I would move on to the next one. I also wrote down many of them because I want them committed to my memory. Quite a few thoughts and observations there moved me deeply and they might ultimately be the reason that I will one day want to reread this novel.
Special thanks to Ilie Ruby for sending me a copy of her book for review.