Far From the Tree

Jeffrey Hall

The book in a nutshell: “Dwellin’ on the past won’t change nothin’ now” (page #3); “Pride is one thing, actin’ stupid is another” (page #206); “The footprints are always behind you” (page #244); “Ain’t nothing” hurts worse than a lie” (page #274); “The heroes were tarnished, the villains not so guilty and her own lofty place above it all cut down to size” (page 318).

The first 50 pages of Far From the Tree by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant went by very slowly. However, as the story continued, its pace picked up and I found myself rooting for various characters.

In telling the story, the reader is brought continually from the past to decades later to the present. The story opens in Prosper, North Carolina in 1957 with 18 year old Odella Womack living in a storeroom between two stores – Pal’s kitchen and a beauty salon. It was evident that something was drastically wrong because Odella was getting ready to leave Prosper with Will as soon as possible and move to Buffalo, New York, marry Will, and never return to Prosper. (Flashback) When Odella was 10 her mother died and her father moved her to her “other family”, where her half-brother, Harry, 15, hated Odella and made life miserable for her.

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Will was a good husband in that he was strong, mostly honest and took care of Odella. Over the years he acquired 14 houses that he rented. The couple had two daughters, Celeste, who was probably in her 40’s since she had a daughter, Niki, who was 23. Celeste’s sister, Ronnie, was six years younger than she.

The real action starts in the kitchen of Odella when the family comes together after Will was electrocuted while working on one of his houses. The above mentioned members of the family were quite dysfunctional and argued over just about everything because of family secrets they kept whether they involved treatment of one of them as a kid, failure at acting and modeling in New York City, a marriage that was “on the rocks”, or aspiring to be a famous chef when it was felt not to be the best occupation by the rest of the family. Bad experiences were hidden until Celeste and Ronnie inherited a large house and 45 acres of land in Prosper and because of circumstances the mother, two daughters and granddaughter all ended up in Prosper where they were able to finally communicate with each other, face their problems, admit their weaknesses and failures and the pieces of their lives came together to provide a bright future for each one of them.

Okay, now you can laugh with me and AT me. I would probably never have read this book except one of my sons called and said he thought it was a good book. He is known for reading the classics and other intellectual books. He gave me the title of the book but not the author. It turned out there is another book written with the same title but it had a further subtitle. I called my son when I was half way through writing this and asked him why he chose this book to read. He said he didn’t read the book but heard the author talking about it on the radio and “he” made it sound interesting. Right away I knew something was wrong because this book was written by two women! Although I enjoyed the book, it may be more slanted toward female readers.