December 21, 2017

"...the kind of roots you would need when the storm was strong."

A series of serendipitous events brought Far from the Tree by Robin Benway to my attention. It started when I was looking for a book that could count for the "a book nominated for an award in 2017" prompt for Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2017 Reading Challenge. A few days later, I saw that Far from the Tree was nominated for the National Book Award. Since I'd enjoyed Emmy and Oliver last year, I thought it might be a good option. THEN, the ladies at Go Fug Yourself mentioned it in this post - celebrating its win and adding their own personal recommendation for it! I take their recs seriously, so I knew I had to read it.

Two weeks later, my husband and I took a trip to New York. It was a lovely little getaway, and we packed so many adventures into our time there. And I made sure we had time to visit Books of Wonder, a local children's bookstore! I spotted Far from the Tree on an endcap - signed, no less! - and promptly bought it. And that's the story of how it eventually became the perfect choice for October's Picky Pledge Reading Challenge prompt, "A Book You Bought While Traveling." (Yes, I didn't read a book for this prompt until December. Oops!)

A few nights ago, I couldn't decide what to read and grabbed a few books off my shelves to sample. Far from the Tree was one of them, and I was hooked from the first chapter. This is the story "three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment." Grace is an only child who was adopted at birth, but she goes looking for her biological family after putting her own baby up for adoption. That search leads her to Maya, her younger biological sister (adopted at birth to a family with another child), and Joaquin, their older brother who has spent seventeen years in the foster care system.

This book switches between the point of view of each sibling, something that typically annoys me. But I was so glad I got to experience the perspective of all three siblings! They have had different upbringings, family experiences, expectations for the future and their own unique hurts and hangups. I grieved with Grace after she gave up her baby for adoption, with Joaquin as he dealt with guilt and shame over his past and with Maya as she watched her parent unraveling. I haven't gone through these experiences personally, but Benway brought me into their lives in a way that felt so real and so personal. 

Needless to say, it was an emotional reading experience. I laughed, got angry, shed some tears... Benway made me fully invested in these characters. If you ask me what I remember most about this book, it's the emotions. Don't get me wrong - it's a tightly plotted book with well-developed characters and quotable writing. BUT MAN, THE EMOTIONS. Reading this book reminded me of the way I feel when I watch This is Us -- a little weepy by hopeful and reminded of the beauty of families, even in brokenness. 

I wasn't crazy about the romances, but that's partly because I wanted them to be more developed (or just removed completely). With so many good storylines, they were the least compelling part of the book (with one exception because RAFE). I liked that you saw how insecurity (and sometimes self-sabotage) affected all of them, but it also made them feel a bit too similar or repetitive. But overall, that's a minor complaint!

Far from the Tree is about growing up, seeing your parents in a new light, being there for the people you love, getting some things right and others wrong, and being scared but doing it anyway. It's a love letter to families of all kinds. It's a heartfelt depiction of the people who annoy you the most but love you the deepest. It shows that families are messy and imperfect but they matter. I loved this one and am so glad I picked it up in New York City! Now I'll always have special memories associated with this lovely, heartwarming books.
Release Date: October 3, 2017 | Publisher: HarperCollins; HarperTeen
Pages: 384 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover 

This was my tenth read for The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge that Alexa and I are doing in 2017! It's the perfect motivation to read books from my TBR and adds an extra dose of accountability, too. In addition to reading and reviewing one challenge book per month, we're answering three questions about each one!

1. How long has this book been on your TBR? 
By the time I read it, it had only been on my TBR for about two weeks!

2. Where were you when you bought this book?
In New York City! After a full day of wandering the city, we stopped at Books of Wonder.

3. Do you typically buy books while traveling?
I do! If possible, I try to buy at least one book from a local independent bookstore. But all bets are off when we go to the beach because I can never restrict myself to just one book

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