Sarah Crowe left Atlanta, and the remnants of a tumultuous relationship, to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant - a parapsychologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on a desolate corner of the property. And as the gnarled tree takes root in her imagination, Sarah risks her health and her sanity to unearth a revelation planted centuries ago.
©2009 Caitlin R. Kiernan (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"[Caitlín R. Kiernan has] a gift for language that borders on the scary." (Neil Gaiman)
Many reviewers have complained about the meandering plot, lack of clear conclusion, swearing etc.
I don't like the novel because of any of these things, and yes, I usually prefer a more sympathetic main character too.
Yet the novel is worth reading if you like good writing, both in descriptions and in characterization.
I loved Lovecraft and Poe as a child, but have long since rejected the first for his laughably bad writing and see no reason to reread the second because his characters have so little depth.
In comparison to Kiernan, Stephen King spins a better plot, but I don't think a compelling plot is what Keirnan is trying to write here.
In terms of description, both literary quality and ability to convey creepiness, she writes as well -- better, I'd say -- than the best of King, and she does a better job revealing the tragedy and especially the ambiguity that lurks in relationship.
Yes, there is some sweaty sex that may titillate or disgust the reader, but the really compelling and heartbreaking thing about the novel is the portrayal of a tentative new friendship that is a shadow of hope threatened by horror.
The tension lies in wondering whether the narrator will be saved, go down with her friend, or be left even more alone in the darkness.
This is the best horror novel I've read in some time, filled with mystery, the tangled legacy of history, personal tragedy and the difficult war with one's own grief, the awful recognition of losing one's creative capabilities and seeing an inescapable tragedy approaching, and some great surprises wonderfully presented. Kiernan brings her distinctive fusion of scientific and artistic appreciation of the world to bear on this chronicle of a life's final months.
Somehow between the introspection and melancholy that I've been left with after this, I believe I've become a fan of Caitlin R. Kiernan. Enjoyable is the not quite the right word for this, but definitely compelling, the need to experience what happens next. I also appreciate the way the main narrator, really becomes the character, and even the use of several narrators.
It raises questions and leads you down paths, and then circling back...I'm searching for some green monofilament, and maybe it will lead to the conclusion somewhere. I actually listened to the last segment three times, to make sure I din't miss anything. I hadn't. I don't like to be left hanging at the end of a story, but as she says, it is fickle, and is meant to be that way. If you can handle that and what the previous reviewers have mentioned, it is worth it!
After listening to this book, I am a new fan of Ms. Kiernan. The tale is chilling in a way the creeps up and over and under the skin, taking its time but not taking too long. I finished it feeling dazed and uncomfortable, which is precisely how I like my horror. A unique and troubling read.
This book will either leave you exclaiming,WOW! Or have you scratching your head and thinking, HUH..? I'm leaning on the side of WOW! This is not a fast paced chiller-thriller. It's not supposed to be. Is it a story about a haunted tree? Well sort of. In any case, I can't get it out of my head.
This book is a book of leaves. A book of layers. A dozen readings will begin to reveal it's many levels of meanings. One of the greatest pieces of "weird fiction" in the past decade, if not the last twenty-five years. Genius, and a deeply - if difficult - protagonist/narrator.
Sarah and Constance getting lost of their way to the tree.
Sarah's climactic confrontation with the attic.
I don't write tag lines for movies.
Kiernan continues to amaze and astound. Only her most recent, The Drowning Girl, surpass her work in The Red Tree. This book is a must-read!
I've really enjoyed the other novel's I've read by Caitlin Kiernan before, so I was really sad to be disappointed with this one. Overall, slow and dragging plot, and my least favorite narrator. Also, the ending didn't leave one hanging with suspense, or pondering questions of "may have been", it just....wasn't. Try again. :(
I don't mind that the character is a lesbian, or that she uses the "F" word. But this isn't a novel. It's a journal of Kiernan writing about what it's like to write when she doesn't know what to write about. There is no plot, no coherence, just a meandering stroll through the author's mind. While that would ordinarily be acceptable if the book was described as such, it is a complete disappointment for someone wanting to read a fantasy/mystery story.
Don't waste your time or money. Just read someone's blog on the internet. It's basically the same thing.
Some things I wish I would have known before buying:
In the first two hours the "f" word is in every other sentence.
The main character is a lesbian that goes on about how horny she is and there are several lesbian sex scenes.
There are too many dream sequences that confuse the story and editor notes and short story stuff.
The story kind of just rambles on in weird places.
I was stubborn enough to listen to the end even though I wanted to turn it off after about 1 1/2 hours, and finally to get to the end and there really was no end per se. FRUSTRATING! (even the author mentions this saying that it is like that because that is how real life is - no ending)
There were some interesting elements though, that is why I gave it two stars instead of one.
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