Book Review of The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli

Posted August 30, 2012 by Kara in Uncategorized / 17 Comments

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Source: ARC from publisher and TLC Book Tours

Blurb: From The New York Times bestselling author of The Lotus Eaters, a novel of a California ranching family, its complicated matriarch and an enigmatic caretaker who may destroy them.

When Claire Nagy marries Forster Baumsarg, the only son of prominent California citrus ranchers, she knows she’s consenting to a life of hard work, long days, and worry-fraught nights. But her love for Forster is so strong, she turns away from her literary education and embraces the life of the ranch, succumbing to its intoxicating rhythms and bounty until her love of the land becomes a part of her. Not even the tragic, senseless death of her son Joshua at kidnappers’ hands, her alienation from her two daughters, or the dissolution of her once-devoted marriage can pull her from the ranch she’s devoted her life to preserving.


But despite having survived the most terrible of tragedies, Claire is about to face her greatest struggle: An illness that threatens not only to rip her from her land but take her very life. And she’s chosen a caregiver, the enigmatic Caribbean-born Minna, who may just be the darkest force of all. 


Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together.


Review: This was a really weird book for me. Parts of it I enjoyed reading, I could tell the author knew how to weave a wonderful story, but it never really pulled me in. The book is divided into four parts, and for the first two, I wasn’t really enjoying the book all that much. But once Minna entered the picture, I really became interested in where she came from and what she was all about. I never really liked her as a character (or any of the other characters, for that matter), but I did find her enigmatic and I wanted to know more.

The main problem I personally had with The Forgetting Tree were the characters. I didn’t like ANY of them. Well, I sort of liked Octavio, but he wasn’t in the book long enough, and I wasn’t able to develop a bond with him. The rest of the characters were just selfish, annoying, whiny, insane, or any combination of those characteristics.

Claire, our protagonist, was not a character I could root for or even really understand. I didn’t GET her motivations. This is hard to talk about without spoilers, but I will just say this. Throughout the book she was a doormat and once Minna came into the story, she let Minna walk all over her and control her, even to the point of cutting off contact with her children, letting the ranch fall into disrepair, and harming her health. Didn’t get it. At all. I guess I am just not empathetic toward that type of person. I felt much the same about most of the characters, but more so toward Claire just because she was in the book most often.

Here’s the thing though. I can handle unlikable characters if I am enjoying the story, the writing is beautiful, or there is something else about the book I am entertained by. And I really wasn’t with this book. Once we got into Minna’s history and why she was the way she was, I found myself enjoying it more. But by that point, there were only 150 pages left in the book. 

The writing was pretty uneven. I hated the writing style in the beginning. I was finding unnecessary comma splices, fragments, and the writing was awfully comma happy, which is a thing I personally cannot stand. That tapered off toward the middle of the book, and I found myself wondering if it was a stylistic choice. Either way, I did not really care for it. After the halfway point, I actually really found myself enjoying the writing and turning the pages. I appreciated that finally, the book had a good flow. I’m not sure what happened there, but the reason why I think it was stylistic was because of the whole Minna equation. Once she entered the picture, Claire went through a personality change–a bit of a metamorphosis–and I think the writing was trying to emulate that. It didn’t work for me though. 

As far as plot goes, for me the beginning was really slow. The death of Josh really didn’t do much for me because I didn’t feel anything for the characters. But once Minna entered the picture (see a recurring theme here?), I found myself enjoying more of what I was reading. This is why I gave the book three  stars. It was quite a page turner at a certain point. And I really did appreciate the way the author incorporated theme and symbolism into the book’s structure. But ultimately, I just didn’t fall in love with this book the way I was hoping I would. It is a definite possibility that this could totally be a “me” thing. I think the right person really would enjoy this book more than I did.

Who do I recommend this book to? Lovers of the weird, lovers of books that make you uncomfortable, and readers that like psychologically strange works. If you like your head to be messed with and don’t mind feeling confused, I think you may be the reader for this book. 

Ultimately, I just didn’t get the point, and the ending left me wondering what it all was for. 

To purchase a copy of The Forgetting Tree from Amazon.com, click here: The Forgetting Tree: A Novel. I am an affiliate, so please, PLEASE, buy from my links. 🙂

17 responses to “Book Review of The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli

  1. I’m glad this book ended up getting better in the end! 🙂 I really hate when books are really boring and bad during the beginning because that’s kind of what makes or breaks the deal for me sometimes >.< Awesome review though Kara! 🙂

    • I definitely would have quit reading this one if I had purchased it. But because I was given it to read and review, I persevered on. Usually it IS a deal breaker. Thank you for your comment!

  2. Okay the people you recommend this for is totally me! lol. I love books set in CA, especially with an agriculture setting since it hits home for me 🙂

    I’m definitely going to add this book.

  3. The plot sounds very interesting, and I hate to see that the execution was poorly handled. I am glad that you got something out of the book, Kara. I often forgive a book if I can connect to a background character can pick up the slack of poorly written main characters. For example, if it wasn’t for Alice and Jasper or Carlisle in Twilight, I would have rated the book 1 star. I actually care very little for Bella, Jacob and Edward, but I love the other characters. I have the same feeling for Eon.

    I think I might skip this one, but I love your review!

    • Me too, Lyn. I wouldn’t say I liked any of the background characters, but I did find a few of them interesting. Totally understand what you are saying about Twilight though. I was a pretty big fan of Alice myself. Thanks for commenting!

  4. It’s too bad the characters were a let down for you. I hate reading books with characters that I don’t give two effs about. I can imagine that it’s difficult to be an editor and avid reader (or a reader of my reviews/comments HA!) but happy you kind of enjoyed this one overall.

    • Thanks, Jenni! I LOVE your comments. Hey, I was able to get through this book without DNFing so in my eyes that counts for something. It had SOME good qualities, it just ended up being a personal thing for me.

  5. It sounds like this book just had too much in the way of dramatics going on with the loss of a child, alienation from family, a failing marriage, and an illness? Sounds a bit like overload. I’m sorry that the characters didn’t quite work out for you, but I’m glad to hear that the book got better in the end, that’s always better than not liking it all the way through.

    • Really good observation, Melissa. I had not thought about it like that. You are too right. There was a lot going on in this book. To the point that it was almost not believable. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I have a problem with it.

  6. Amy

    This book sounds interesting. I have a hard time if I don’t like the characters though so I don’t know if I would pick this up. I’m glad that you still liked this book even with the issues you had with it. Great review chick!!

    • Thanks, Joy. On the writing, neither am I. Inconsistent writing is one of my biggest pet peeves. If it’s a stylistic thing, fine, but I could never really tell with this book. Meh.

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