The Roots of the Olive Tree – Courtney Miller Santo
Though I’m a tomboy and hardly pride myself on my meaningful female friendship-making skills, I will always have my family. My connections to my sister, my mother and my grandmother are three of my most treasured relationships. We’re spread out all along the east coast, now, but once lived in very close proximity, forming that sort of family bond not often felt, these days. Even now, though we have flung ourselves to various corners of creation, we continue to stay well woven into each other’s lives.
Why that random bio shot?
I’d love to tell you!
You see: I just finished this fantastic little book by Courtney Miller Santo titled The Roots of the Olive Tree. Yes, like all of the best book titles, that’s a plot indicative double entendre.
This engaging, emotional piece is centered around a much larger generational span of ladies than my own, with very different, pardon me, roots than mine. Still, though there are the obvious elements of fiction or simply realistic differences, the heart of this tale is anchored in the strength running up and down their maternal line which appealed to me and will, I’m sure, appeal to many women, regardless of their place on their family’s timeline of ladies.
Alright, alright! If you want to hear me wax poetically about the “many similarities despite the obvious differences” drawn between my family and the Keller women, feel free to give me a ring. For everyone else’s sake, I should probably drop the family crest love and move on to the actual book.
Back to the story, then.
The featured line of ladies (The Kellers) are grounded, on one end, by the eldest and ruling matriarch, 112 year old Anna. On the other end, it finds itself capped by Erin, the twenty-something caboose. They share their lives, time and space with one another at Hill House, the family home as well as a heritage rooted, if you will, in the rich history of their relationship to their olive orchards. Obviously, there are many a tie in to parallels of the family roots and their beloved trees’ roots.
Other than staying uncommonly close (both physically and emotionally) over the passing years, the Kellers have another interesting shared quality: longevity. Though, clearly, the newer members of the family are nowhere near old age, the senior guardians of the group are alive and very well, well past the limits of what even modernity should expect.
Because of this aging anomaly, geneticist Dr.Amrit Hashmi, ventures into the lioness’ den to figure out just what is keeping this crew so lively through their very extended golden period. As you can probably guess, a family that lives forever has more than the average family when it comes to quirks, drama and, most importantly, secrets.
As the plot unfolds, told expertly through a multi-character point of view format, many past wounds and worries are reopened and revisited. The voices are all well done and, though some ventured into self-absorption, self-deprecation or outright whining, it was all fairly easy to swallow, given the position of each speaker.
I would love to have read this as part of a book discussion or even just a cross-generational group read, each from our own perch, with my family of females. This is definitely up there on my list of golden books for women’s fiction as well as family drama.