“The neglected lemon tree had grown to a monstrous height, almost even to the pitch of a barn roof, and the unpicked fruit had grown obscene – globular, swollen lemons the shape of footballs, hydrocephalic tennis balls, or further deformed into bizarre shapes resembling gourds, or small ghoulish animals.”
This early paragraph of The Forgetting Tree is a apt opening to the world you are about to be drawn into. When we imagine a lemon tree, we picture the good possibilities – the outstretched branches, the rich green leaves, the plump fruit and the heady citrus scent. But instead, we see something we didn’t expect – ugly, haunting, strangeness.
Claire Baumsarg and her estranged husband own their California citrus ranch together, but it is Claire who lives on the property. The land and Claire are part of each other and they expect to grow old together. When Claire is diagnosed with breast cancer, she insists that she remain on the ranch, working while undergoing treatment. It becomes clear that she cannot manage on her own, so with her family’s approval, a caregiver is hired, and what seems to be a perfect solution becomes a dark, disturbing journey.
I know I was supposed to care about Minna’s (the caregiver’s) troubled past, but I just couldn’t get past her heinous actions. I like this author, I really do. I absolutely loved The Lotus Eaters, but this book opens you up and exposes you to an ugliness. And it’s not distant – you can identify with Claire and her family, and know that these things could happen to you. So I did not particularly enjoy this book. I’m sure others would, but it just wasn’t for me.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012