Saturday, October 16, 2021

Greenwood by Michael Christie

From the award-winning author of If I Fall, If I Die comes a propulsive, multigenerational family story, in which the unexpected legacies of a remote island off the coast of British Columbia will link the fates of five people over a hundred years. Cloud Atlas meets The Overstory in this ingenious nested-ring epic set against the devastation of the natural world.

They come for the trees. It is 2038. As the rest of humanity struggles through the environmental collapse known as the Great Withering, scientist Jake Greenwood is working as an overqualified tour guide on Greenwood Island, a remote oasis of thousand-year-old trees.

Jake had thought the island's connection to her family name just a coincidence, until someone from her past reappears with a book that might give her the family history she's long craved. From here, we gradually move backwards in time to the years before the First World War, encountering along the way the men and women who came before Jake: an injured carpenter facing the possibility of his own death, an eco-warrior trying to atone for the sins of her father's rapacious timber empire, a blind tycoon with a secret he will pay a terrible price to protect, and a Depression-era drifter who saves an abandoned infant from certain death, only to find himself the subject of a country-wide manhunt. At the very centre of the book is a tragedy that will bind the fates of two boys together, setting in motion events whose reverberations we see unfold over generations, as the novel moves forward into the future once more.

A magnificent novel of inheritance, sacrifice, nature, and love that takes its structure from the nested growth rings of a tree, Greenwood spans generations to tell the story of a family living and dying in the shadows cast by its own secrets. With this breathtaking feat of storytelling, Michael Christie masterfully reveals the tangled knot of lies, omissions, and half-truths that exists at the root of every family's origin story. 

Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 24th 2019
 by McClelland & Stewart
4/5 stars

This book grabbed my attention with the Canadian historical setting.  It comes in at just over 500 pages with a small print. For me it was hard to read which is why I waited for the audio via the library and did a combo read/listen.

Beginning in 2038 then going back in time to reveal an intriguing multi generational family saga that spans the country.  Most of the book takes place on Vancouver Island, its a place I love to visit so it wasn't hard for me to visualize the beautiful trees and feel the setting.  The story itself was well constructed with realistic threads that carefully fused together to create an interesting journey that eventually placed Jake where she ended up.

Greenwood is a well written story of perseverance, conviction and family - not necessarily ones you are born into.  This is my first time reading Michael Christie, will definitely be on the lookout for more.

“What if a family isn't a tree at all? What if it's more like a forest? A collection of individuals, pooling their resources by intertwined roots, sheltering each other from wind and weather and drought... what are families other than fictions? Stories told about a particular cluster of people for a particular reason. And like all stories, families are not born, they're invented. Pieced together from love and lies and nothing else.”

This book is part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.  I received Greenwood from the fine folks at Uniquely Bookish Box.

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