Review: The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby

19 Jul

The Language of TreesMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A truly beautiful book!

That beauty is part of why it was only 4.5 stars for me.  I had some issues with the language (always gorgeous) that distracted me from my reading of this all around fabulous book at times.

From Ilie Ruby’s website:

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 read for the words.  I read for the characters and the plot.  I can enjoy a beautiful passage, but if the words continue to get in the way of my reading, I consider this a negative.

Something about the words in The Language of Trees kept niggling at me.  I’d stop and read the words.  In general, they’d be beautifully written, and I’d stop to admire them, but that wasn’t it.  Was there something about the rhythm of them?  It was something that carried through the prose, not something that occasionally appeared.

About halfway through, I figured it out.  The book is written in present tense, and this gave the book a very different feel to the words.  Once I realized this, it stopped pulling at me.  It still had a different flow, but I could just go with it.

I’d say that those that enjoy the words they read have a real treat waiting for them in The Language of Trees.

There’s plenty for the rest of us, too.

The characters were amazing. I enjoyed the variety, each with a strong personality, shaped by life experience.

Each character carried the past with them– Melanie, her sister Maya, and her mother carried the death of Luke, the youngest of the three children. Melanie had finally seemed to put it behind her so she could get on with her life with her baby Lucas, and his father, Lion. When she disappears, it’s blamed on her past with drugs, but Lion and Leila know better.

Grant and Echo are haunted by their past together, wondering if their relationship should have ended many years ago, or at least if it should have ended differently. Each has their individual burdens. Grant has a legacy from his father that he doesn’t understand, and a broken marriage he hasn’t come to terms with.

The paths of each of these characters have crossed in the past, and continue to do so in the book. As they come together to find what happened to Melanie, they learn about them selves as well.

I loved how we also had glimpses into the minor characters, if any character in a book like this can be called minor.  Clarisse lives next door to Melanie’s family, and has been in love with Echo’s guardian for years:

She hasn’t told anyone how she often sees the spirit of Luke Ellis crouched in the crook of Leila’s lilac tree, or how many of his yellow paper airplanes appear out of nowhere, littering her gutters and landing in her open windows.  She knows grief can make you see and do odd things.  If people in town think Grant is crazy, locked away in his family’s haunted cabin for three weeks, she knows what they’d say about her.  That she is just a lonely old woman who has spend too many years watching other women get married and have families.  That she is just trying to get attention.  If they only know the truth, that her solitary situation is the result of a choice she made a long time ago.  A conscious choice.  Clarisse might be nearly blind without her glasses with the emerald rhinestone frames, her skin might be as mottled as a potato, her fingers as knotted as ginger root, but her mind is as clear as a bell.

From page 61 of the uncorrected proof, the final version may be different.

We even spend some time getting to know the book’s bad guy, understanding his evil. It doesn’t make him more sympathetic, but it does fill out the book, giving a completeness to these snapshots.

The plot revolves around the search for Melanie. I was very intrigued by this aspect of the story, mostly for what it showed about the characters by the actions they took. Even with all of the characters in the book, the plot still took a clear, relatively logical path.

When I picked up this book to read, I’d forgotten that the description I’d read included “magical realism”. This aspect of the story didn’t really manifest until I’d been reading a while, and it took me by surprise. As the magical aspects permeated the story more and more, I appreciated how they helped build the web holding the book together. It was beautiful, internally consistent, and all together well done.

If you’d like to know more, here is the book trailer:

TLC Book ToursI read The Language of Trees as part of a tour for TLC Book Tours.  Thank you for the opportunity to participate, and for introducing me to this book.  For more views on The Language of Trees, check out the other tour stops.


Posted by on July 19, 2010 in books, reviews, tour


Tags: , , , ,

9 responses to “Review: The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby

  1. Scorpio M.

    July 20, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Lovely review. I am a lover of words, words are my ‘music’ not that plot and characters don’t count. They definitely do. It won’t be a story without them but when an author is able to capture prose in a lyrical fashion…I’m sold.

    I will be reading this one. Thank you.

  2. Marce

    July 20, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Very interesting review. It made me realise why I couldn’t enjoy another book. The lyrical beautiful writing made me disconnect from the story.

    4 1/2 stars is great.

  3. Sue Jackson

    July 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I keep hearing about this book! I don’t always enjoy magical realism books, but I’m intrigued by this one because of its setting – I grew up in Rochester, NY, near Canandaigua Lake where the book is set.

    Thanks for the great review –


  4. TheLanguageOfTrees

    July 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Hi All, This is Ilie Ruby. I thought I’d stop by and say hello! First off, thank you for reviewing my novel. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Laura. If there are any questions that anyone would like to ask me, I’m happy to answer—whether it be about the element of magical realism or folklore or the story behind the story. The book is out today: Day 1. Hurrah!

  5. Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books

    July 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Laura – I agree with you that it’s hard to call any character in this novel a minor character — they were all 3-dimensional and played important roles.

    I loved Ruby’s language/writing, and did find myself blowing thru to follow the plot a few times … then returning to soak up the lyrical writing.

  6. Heather J. @ TLC

    July 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    The book sounds amazing but I’m not sure if I could deal with the missing children aspect – stories like that are too easy to imagine, and I find myself inserting Kiddo into the plot … creepy.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour – your review is excellent!

  7. Lisa

    July 22, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Present tense always kind of throws me off as well. But otherwise, it sounds like this is definitely one not to be missed.

  8. sue p

    August 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Just read it. Not loving it much though. A little too self-conscious. too too.


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