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Family Tree


Family Tree

Family is complicated. It seems to be a universal truth the world over. No marriage is perfect; the most ideal of partnerships will inevitably come with some minute level of discontent. Even a happy family has its own inherent complications. A family that works a generations-old farm together in blissful harmony can still crash when the bow breaks.

Annie Rush, the heroine of FAMILY TREE, has it all. Her brainchild, a culinary television show called “The Key Ingredient,” is still a smash after eight years on the air. It is hosted by her husband, Martin Harlow, a Thor-esque Texan chef. They have a beautiful home in Los Angeles, People is doing a major story on the series, and Annie is newly pregnant.

The day Annie discovers she’s pregnant Martin has already gone to set. Annie soon follows, earlier than expected, hurrying to tell him the news. When she walks into his trailer, she finds him wearing only fancy cowboy boots while straddling his co-host, Melissa. Annie runs out of the trailer in shock, Martin trailing her in boxers and boots. A moment later, a malfunctioning lift crashes to the ground, right onto Annie.

"For being 350 pages long, FAMILY TREE is a remarkably quick read and easy to follow as it switches between present and past, and character perspectives told in third-person omniscient narrative."

A year later, Annie wakes up in a skilled nursing facility. She has been in a coma, hovering between life and death. She has outlasted the traumatic brain injury she suffered, proving wrong the doctors who said she wouldn’t make it, but has lost her pregnancy. Annie also has lost all memory of the accident and Martin, who divorced her while she was asleep. He has moved her back to her home state of Vermont so her family can care for her and he can move on with his life.

Annie grew up in Switchback, Vermont, a small town with a thriving maple syrup industry, on a mountain farm where her family makes a brand of pure maple syrup called Sugar Rush. Her older brother, Kyle, runs the family business and lives in the family farmhouse with his wife and kids, and mother Caroline. Annie’s father, Ethan, left when she was 10. Now he is back, partly to care for his aging parents and partly for Annie.

Annie can remember most of her past: growing up in Switchback, the sugar seasons on the syrup farm, meeting and falling in love with her high school boyfriend, Fletcher Wyndham, the death of her beloved Gran, going to NYU, the subsequent break-up of the relationship she thought would last forever. Her family is careful not to mention the show or Martin; Annie needs to remember on her own. One day, alone in her room at the rehab facility, she finds an envelope containing her wedding ring and divorce papers, and she begins to remember.

Annie has to relearn everything, from walking to cutting her food to figuring out who she is. This last one proves to be the most difficult. As she is released from the rehab center and arrives back on the farm, she wonders where “home” really is for her. Complicating matters further is Fletcher, now Switchback’s sitting judge and a handsomer, fitter, richer version of the boy she used to know. Fletcher wants to date her; Annie hesitates to jump into anything except cooking in the farmhouse kitchen while attempting to regain her grip on life, home and who Annie Rush really is.

At its core, FAMILY TREE is a love story. It is meant to concentrate on familial relationships, how they evolve through happiness, tragedy and time. But the focus lies on the relationship between Annie and Fletcher --- how it develops in high school, falls apart, rekindles after college, falls apart again, and how the adult, world-worn versions of Annie and Fletcher might need each other again. The Rush family story spans four generations, and their tale is the richest of the familial examinations, but it could delve deeper, making the dynamic between the members more interesting. Annie can do no wrong --- the perpetual perfect child --- which begins to read as tired.

For being 350 pages long, FAMILY TREE is a remarkably quick read and easy to follow as it switches between present and past, and character perspectives told in third-person omniscient narrative. Be warned: This book is full of descriptions of decadent food that the characters are cooking, so a snack before or during reading is recommended.

Reviewed by Sarah Jackman on August 12, 2016

Family Tree
by Susan Wiggs

  • Publication Date: April 25, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Avon
  • ISBN-10: 0062425447
  • ISBN-13: 9780062425447