‘The Roots of the Tree’ by first time novelist Amanda Roberts is a gripping tale of family, love and deceit, which I found impossible to put down.
This may be Miss Roberts’ first novel, however she writes with the confidence and assurance of a best-selling author.
The novel opens in 1931 before moving to present day Barchester, a fictional town in middle England where we meet Annie, a 63-year old PA. Having lost her mother, Elsie, several years ago, she is now preparing for the funeral of her father Frank. Annie has been sole carer for both of her parents over the past few years.
Surrounded by family and friends the funeral passes well and after several days Annie, not wishing to wallow in self pity and grief, decides it’s time to start tackling the onerous job of sorting through her parents possessions, and it is then that a discrepancy over the dates on their marriage certificate leads to a discovery that will completely change her life.
Based on a true story from the author’s own family The Roots of the Tree follows the revelation that Annie’s biological father was not the man she had called dad for 63 years but a complete stranger. This is a cruel blow for Annie and with no one left to shed light on the secrets of the past she soon starts to spiral into despair.
At the heart of this story is family. Annie has two loving daughters, a close friendship with her ex husband and an extended family all of whom rally to help, in particular an elderly aunt who has vague recollections of a childhood scandal. As Annie discovers her own parent’s incomprehensible deceit it is her eldest daughter, Susie, who is determined to find some answers. With the huge shock threatening to engulf her mother, Susie, an editorial assistant at the local newspaper, must use all her ingenuity to try to unravel the past before Annie slides out of reach.
The Roots of the Tree tells a remarkable story, which highlights the complexity of family relationships. It seems clear that Annie’s upbringing was both loving and kind so why were her parents not able to tell her the truth? Why do we lie to each other and can it ever be justified even if we think we are doing it for the right reasons? Are the clues hidden in the prejudices and social expectations of a previous generation and how did the war years impact? With no sentiment, the author brilliantly describes the complex emotions and devastating effects of both perpetrating and discovering such a deceit. She has great compassion for all her characters and makes no judgement on their actions or flaws. As the story slowly unfolds the writing is so truthful and clear that it will tug tightly on your heartstrings, but ultimately this is an uplifting and heart-warming read.
I recommend you clear the decks for a while because once you start this novel, you won’t want to put it down.