Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

Title: The Memory Trees
Author: Kali Wallace
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Source: Katherine Tegen via Edelweiss

The Memory Trees is a dark magical realism novel about a mysterious family legacy, a centuries-old feud, and a tragic loss that resurfaces when sixteen-year-old Sorrow returns to her mother’s family orchard for the summer.

Sorrow Lovegood’s life has been shaped by the stories of the women who came before her: brave, resilient women who settled long ago on a mercurial apple orchard in Vermont. The land has been passed down through generations, and Sorrow and her family take pride in its strange history. Their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople—especially their neighbors, the Abrams family—but for the first eight years of her life, the orchard is Sorrow’s whole world.

Then one winter night everything changes. Sorrow’s sister Patience is tragically killed. Their mother suffers a mental breakdown. Sorrow is sent to live with her dad in Miami, away from the only home she’s ever known.

Now sixteen, Sorrow’s memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy; even the details of her sister’s death are unclear. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn more about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. Why has her mother kept her distance over the years? What actually happened the night Patience died? Is the orchard trying to tell her something, or is she just imagining things?
Review by Nara

The Memory Trees was quite a different novel to most YA novels that I've read. I guess this was partly because it was a generational novel but I think it was mostly due to the writing. The writing was even quite different to Kali Wallace's debut novel, These Shallow Graves, and took on a more lyrical/descriptive tone- not quite to the level of "purple prose", but close.

What I found to be most problematic with this novel was the pacing. It was quite slow, and I'm not really sure that the pace picks up at any point- it just continues at the slow pace. The writing itself is quite lovely, and part of the reason why the novel felt so slow was because it was incredibly descriptive.

As a generational story, I felt like some of the ancestor's lives were not fleshed out that well. I haven't read too many other generational novels (the only other similar ones that come to mind at the moment are Midnight at the Electric and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender), so I guess perhaps the point isn't necessarily to flesh out those stories, but I would've liked to be a little more invested in those subplots.

The magical realism aspect of the novel was actually pretty minor, with the orchard leaving objects for Sorrow to find (these objects being a key part of several of the ancestors' stories) but the rest of the plot was pretty interesting. While the book was slow, there was something about the story that made you keep wanting to read it. You wanted to find out what happened to Patience and what happened to Verity.

I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to everyone- you have to be in the right sort of mood for this one, I think. For those looking for something a bit interesting and don't mind a slow pace.

Liked it
Overall: 7/10
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5