Some memorable characters branch out in novels. Yes, I’m talking about trees.
The Overstory, the masterfully written and researched novel I haven’t quite finished yet, features a wide-ranging cast that comes together to try to save centuries-old trees on America’s West Coast. The amazing descriptions of those trees and other trees in Richard Powers’ heartfelt, heartbreaking, monumental book make them feel almost as human as the humans.
There’s also the titular tree in Betty Smith’s poignant and compelling A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that survives in a tough urban environment, illustrating not only its own tenacity but symbolizing the tenacity of many of the neighborhood’s residents.
Another book with “tree” in its title — in this case plural — is Barbara Kingsolver’s very good debut novel The Bean Trees.
Many decades earlier, Edith Wharton wrote Ethan Frome with a story line that hinges around a tree-related occurrence — as we find out late in the emotionally wrenching novel.
What happens to a tree during a storm portends what will happen with the relationship of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s classic work.
A 20th-century classic, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s brilliant One Hundred Years of Solitude, has its gone-mad character Jose Arcadio Buendia tied to a tree in the later years of his life. A weird metaphor for being the patriarch of the Buendia family tree?
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s celebrated The Lord of the Rings, major supporting characters include the tree-like Ents. Those delightful beings are a major force for good as the trilogy’s climax nears.
Anne Shirley’s love of beautiful trees is among the traits that make her endearing in L.M. Montgomery’s beloved Anne of Green Gables. For instance, the precocious Anne — when first brought to Green Gables in a horse-drawn wagon — is driven under a canopy of blossoming apple trees and memorably names that road “The White Way of Delight.”
Children’s books also fit this week’s theme, with Shel Silverstein’s much-read The Giving Tree one of them.
Any novels with prominent trees that grew on you?
“One Tree Hill” by U2:
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — which discusses an appalling number of teacher layoffs in my town — is here.