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Cover: 'Greenwood'

Staff Review: "Greenwood" by Michael Christie


Author Michael Christie's novel tells the story of four generations of the Greenwood family, whose lives all revolve around trees: Jake, a guide through one of the last old-growth forests to survive the Great Withering; her father Liam, a carpenter who grew up wandering the wilds of Canada with his mother Willow, a dedicated but non-violent eco-warrior who spurns the wealth accumulated by her timber baron father Harris; and Harris' brother Everett, who has his own unique relationship with Willow.

Aside from a novel in which trees play a central role, what intrigued me about the book is its structure. Starting in 2038, after the Great Withering has choked many of the world's forest with dust and disease, the book gradually moves back through time to 1908, when a young Harris and Everett are found orphaned after a train accident. From there, the book then moves back toward the future to fill in details of the Greenwoods' story and bring it to a conclusion briefly hinted at during the beginning of the novel. The structure is meant to mimic tracing a line across the rings of a tree, moving from the newest outer growth back to its start as a sapling, and then following the rings back out to the present (or, in this case, the future.) It's an interesting way to tell a story and is even somewhat challenging for the reader, but I'm not sure it was entirely necessary. I understand what Christie is aiming at, but a more linear arc from past to future would've been fine, too.

Christie is a talented writer and the dynamic between family members who all form their own relationships with forests, as well as the development of side characters in the Greenwoods' orbit, kept me engaged until the end. I wouldn't call it a great novel, but it was a pretty satisfying read.

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: fiction

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