Book: The Drowning Tree
Author: Carol Goodman
Summary: Juno McKay intended to avoid her fifteenth-year college reunion, but she can't resist the chance to see her life-long friend Christine Webb. Though Juno cringes at the inevitable talk of her troubled personal life - and the husband who ended up in a mental hospital only two years after their wedding - she endures the gossip for her friend's sake. While lecturing at the Penrose College library, Christine shocks the rapt crowd by revealing little-known details about the lives of two sisters - members of the influential family whose name the college bears. Christine's revelations throw shadows of betrayal, lust, and insanity over the family's distinguished facade. After her speech, Christine seems distant, uneasy, and sad. The next day, she disappears. Juno is alarmed and begins to peel away the layers of secrets and madness that surround the Penrose dynasty. She fears that Christine discovered something damning about them, perhaps something worth killing for. And Juno is determined to find it - for her friend and for herself. -Ballantine Books, 2004.
First, I want to welcome all of my new followers - thank you for adding me as a blog to follow! It really inspires me to keep doing these reviews so I hope you enjoy this one and all future reviews to come. I have probably more than forty books lined up so I am settled for reading at least for the next two years - and more as I continue to buy books in spite of my already very full lineup. If you have any questions or suggestions on what I should read, let me know!
Without further ado, I'll get started.
The Carol Goodman train is moving right along now as I have finished yet another of her novels. I only have one more of her older works to read, then I have her two latest novels as well. These last two probably won't come around for a while so you'll be free of her on my blog within the next few months or so.
Spoilers will be kept to a minimum.
I loved this novel. It is right up there with Arcadia Falls and The Lake of Dead Languages. (Side Note: I think Goodman's novels have some of the best titles I've ever seen for books. They always provoke me into thinking about them as much as the stories themselves.) Juno is a fantastic main character whose journey through her friend's disappearance changes her in ways she couldn't have imagined. Some who have read Lake (I'm shortening the names of the other novels) before might see some similarities between it and Tree, but this time, it's not about Juno as much as it is about Juno and Christine. As the summary says, Juno is searching for both herself and Christine. Their fates are entwined ever since they attended college together and Juno can't find closure without examining her relationship with her best friend.
Juno is a woman who, while she is confident, self-assured, and logical, has deep yet relatable weaknesses; trying not to be overprotective of her daughter, reconciling her relationship with her mentally ill husband, and forgiving herself for the wrongs of her past. While she has a fierce loyalty to Christine, it's tested to the breaking point.
After the shocking lecture Christine gives, Juno notices her friend acting strangely - asking her questions she normally wouldn't, losing energy quickly, and acting as if she had something to hide. Christine's disappearance forces Juno to look at the darker parts of her life that she thought she had resolved and see whether or not she can accept the reality of the consequences.
The setting is, once again, the Hudson River Valley, but I always feel as if I'm being introduced to it in a new way with each novel. Goodman keeps the setting centralized in one place rather than moving the characters between several major locations. Each scene is described in minute detail so it is easy enough to visualize it.
I feel as if Goodman writes in a cinematic style. It's visually stimulating and the moments of drama would have just as powerful a punch as if they were on a screen rather than a page. The writing is very well done and the pacing is perfect - I never felt as if anything was rushing or dragging. Each character is developed enough for their purpose in the story and the reader gets the impression that each of them has a history, even if it's not fully explained.
While the ending is bittersweet for several reasons, it's ultimately satisfying and gives the reader a sense of hope. Juno's catharsis, while not as complete as she would have liked it to be, ultimately yields her the answers she needed.
As a thriller, it doesn't contain as many suspenseful moments as her other novels, but I was still surprised at the end when the resolution was revealed. Goodman always keeps the reader guessing and it's one of her best qualities as a writer.
I give The Drowning Tree an A+.
Please support the author by buying the book or borrowing it from a friend or from your local library.
Thanks for reading!