Hi guys, and happy Wednesday! Today I am really delighted to be a part of Susan Wiggs‚ blog tour for her newest release „Family Tree„. Later on today I’ll be posting my review of this novel but first I have an extract from the book exclusive for you! Enjoy!
by Susan Wiggs
Publishing Date: 28th July 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 356
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
For readers of Kristin Hannah and Jodi Picoult comes a powerful, emotionally complex story of love, loss, the pain of the past—and the promise of the future.
Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes.
Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Manhattan home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child.
But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a year-long coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.
Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned ex-cop. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.
Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.
I can’t believe that I haven’t heard about Susan Wiggs’ books before, especially after looking at the impressive list of titles that she’s written over the years. „Family Tree” has captured my attention immediately because of this gorgeous cover and the synopsis – I was really intrigued what kind of story the book is going to turn into. It was something different to what I’ve expected but nevertheless, the book is full of events, vivid characters and we get plenty of love, friendship, heartbreak and family. And food! Don’t read this book when you’re hungry!
I admit, I had some troubles to get into this book. No particular reason why, I just couldn’t engage with the characters and the plot at the beginning. Even though it started really well. But then came chapters titled „Then” and I found them not as captivating as the ones set in „Present”. I much more enjoyed the present story to be honest, it just seemed much more interesting, while the past, as much as it gave us a great insight into what happened, was for me a little too flat. And I also much more preferred Annie as adult than Annie as a teenager – she was great. She was sarcastic and had a great sense of humour. She was confident, and sometimes – especially in the past – too confident and too selfish, especially when it came to the relationships and people. Sometimes I just had a feeling that Fletcher was for Annie like a second – best, that her career was really the most important thing in her life and that the rest will somehow adjust itself to Annie’s other priorities.
The past dragged on a little bit and yes, I skipped some of the descriptions of maple syrup or whisky production to be honest. Sure, I enjoyed to learn, together with Annie, about her past life and how she came to the point in her life she found herself into, to see what kind of good and bad luck she had and which opportunities she had. However, I really much more preferred to see Annie getting back on the horse, realising what it is she really wants from her life now.
Annie is forced to re – evaluate her life after a tragic accident and what comes is a very emotional, sometimes very poignant, sometimes funny story with characters that seemed so very realistic, probably because they were not flawless. All of them made mistakes and were selfish, and the mistakes caused other people’s heartbreaks. They were stubborn but mostly they were also able to own up to mistakes and look for solutions. It made them all feel so real and I quickly found myself really engaged with their lives, keeping my fingers crossed for them, wanting to shake them, getting angry with them or going „oooooh” with them – just the way I like it!
Altogether, I am really happy to say that I enjoyed this book. I love the hidden message in it – that you can reclaim your dreams, no matter what, and that everything is possible in love and war, as they say It was emotional, not so fluffy yet light – hearted read and there is a lot of food in it! I’ve perhaps missed a more distinctive closure with the Martin situation, maybe because I’d love to see him suffer but the end was absolutely right for this kind of story. It was a comforting, full of warmth family saga that left me feeling so content and happy inside. Recommended!
“Open your eyes.”
An unfamiliar voice drifted overhead. She couldn’t tell if the spoken words were in her mind or in the room. The sound floated away into silence, punctuated by hissing and a low hum. Despite the request, she couldn’t open her eyes. The room didn’t exist. Only blackness. She was swimming in dark water, yet for some reason, she could breathe in and out as though the water nourished her lungs.
Other sounds filled the space around her, but she couldn’t identify them—the rhythmic suck and sigh of a machine, maybe a dishwasher or a mechanical pump of some kind. A hydraulic pump?
She smelled … something. Flowers in bloom. Maybe bug spray. No, flowers. Lilies. Stargazer lilies.
Lilies of the field. Wasn’t that from the Sermon on the Mount? It was the name of a high school play. Yes, her friend Gordy had won the Sidney Poitier role in the production.
“… more activity by the hour. She’s progressed to minimal consciousness. The night aide caught it. Dr. King ordered another EEG and a new series of scans.”
A stranger’s voice. That accent. “Caught” sounded like “cot.” Losing the r in “ordered” and “another.” That was known as non-rhotic pronunciation. She remembered this from broadcast journalism training. Lose the caught-cot merger. Speak the rhotic r. Never let anyone guess where you come from.
The mystery speaker’s accent was straight out of northern Vermont.
“Help me with this EEG, will you?” Something jarred her head.
Knock it off.
Ma’am, this is a hard-hat area. Were they putting a hard hat on her? No, a hairnet. No, a swim cap.
Swimmers, take your marks.
She could see herself bending, coiled like a spring, toes curled over the edge of the starting block. She was one of the fastest swimmers on the high school team, the Switchback Wildcats. Senior year, she’d broken the state record for the one-hundred-meter breast. Senior year, she’d seen her life roll out like an endless, shimmering river, with everything in front of her. Senior year, she’d fallen in love for the first time.
“ … always wondered how I’d look with short hair like this,” said one of the voices. Shawt hay-ah. The non-rhotic r.
Beep. The starting tone buzzed through the aquatic center. Annie plunged.
Dry. Why was her throat dry even though she wasn’t thirsty? Why couldn’t she swallow? Something stiff confined her neck. Take it off. Need to breathe.
She floated some more. Water the same temperature as her body. She had to pee. And then she didn’t have to pee. After a while, there were no more physical sensations, only feelings pulsating through her head and neck and chest. Panic and grief. Rage. Why?
She was known for her calm demeanor. Annie will fix it. She fixed people’s accents. Lighting problems. Set design. Stuck valves.
Lefty loosey, righty tighty. With the maple leaf key chain in her hand, she demonstrated.
“See? That movement—it’s not random.”
A voice again.
“I know she’s left-handed. So am I.”
“She looks the same,” said the mom voice. Yes, it was unmistakable. “I don’t see any change at all. How can you tell me she’s waking up?”
“It’s not exactly waking up. It’s a transition into a more conscious state. The EEG shows increased activity. It’s a hopeful sign.”
A different voice. “People don’t suddenly wake up from something like this; they come around gradually, drifting in and out. Annie. Annie, can you open your eyes?”
“Squeeze my finger.”
“Can you wiggle your toes?”
“It can be a lengthy process,” the voice said. “And unpredictable, but we’re optimistic. The scans show no permanent damage. Her respiration has been excellent since we removed the tracheostomy tube.”
Trache … what? Wasn’t that like a hole in her windpipe? Gross. Was that why it hurt to swallow, to breathe?
“I’m sorry.” The mom voice was thick with tears. “It’s just so hard to see …”
“I understand. But this is a time to feel encouraged. She’s avoided so many of the common complications—pulmonary infection, contractures, joint changes, thrombosis … so much that could have gone wrong simply didn’t. And that’s a good thing.”
“How do I see something good here?” Mom whispered.
“I know it’s been difficult for you, but believe me, she’s one of the lucky ones. With this new activity, the care team thinks she’s turned the corner. We’re staying positive.”
“All right. Then so am I.” Mom’s voice, soft with desperate hope. “But if … when she wakes up, what if she’s different? Will she remember what happened? Will she still be our Annie?”
“It’s too soon to know if there will be deficits.”
“What do you mean, deficits?” The voice sounded thin and strained. Panicky.
“We have to take this process one step at a time. There’ll be lots of testing in the days and weeks to come—cognitive, physical, neurological. Psychological. The results will give us a better idea of the best way to help her.”
“Okay,” the mom voice said, “how will we tell her everything? What if she asks for him? What do I say?”
Him. Who was he? Someone who felt like a heavy sadness, pressing her down.
“We’re going to take each moment as it comes. And of course, we’ll continue to monitor her constantly.”
“Oh God. What if—”
“Listen. And, Annie, if you can hear us, you listen, too. You’re young and strong and you survived the worst of it. We’re expecting you to make a good recovery.”
I’m young, thought Annie. Well, duh.
Then she wondered how old she was. Weird how she couldn’t remember … She could easily recall being just four or five, in the sugarhouse with Gran. See how it coats the spatula so perfectly? That means the sap has turned into syrup. We can use the thermometer, but we must use our eyes, too.
Then she was ten, standing on the front porch of the farmhouse, watching her father leave in a storm of pink petals from the apple trees. The truck was crammed with moving boxes, and Dad walked with a stiff, resolute gait. Behind her, sobs drifted from the parlor, where Mom was curled up on the couch while Gran tried to soothe her.
Annie’s world had cracked in two that day. She couldn’t put it back together because she didn’t understand how it had broken apart. There was a crack in her heart, too.
“You should go, Caroline,” someone said. “Get some rest. This process—it can take days, maybe weeks. She’ll be monitored round the clock, and we’ll call you at the first sign of any change.”
Hesitation. A soft sigh. “I see. So then, I’ll be back tomorrow,” said Mom. “In the meantime, call me if there’s any change at all. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the night.”
“Of course. Drive safely.”
Footsteps fading away. Come back. The voice in her head was a man’s voice. She didn’t want to hear it. She tried to listen to the other people in the room.
“ … knew her in high school. She’s from that big family farm on Rush Mountain over in Switchback.” The voice was a gossipy chirp.
“Wow, you’re right. I swam against her at State one year. Small world.”
“Ay-up. She used to go around with Fletcher Wyndham. Remember him?”
“Oh my gosh. Who doesn’t? She should have kept going.”
Fletcher. Fletcher Wyndham. Annie’s mind kept circling back to the name until it matched an image she held in her heart. She remembered the sensation of love that filled every cell of her body, nourishing her like oxygen, warmed her through and through. Did she still love him? The voice had said she used to go around with him, so maybe the love was gone. How had she lost it? Why? What had happened? We’re not finished. She remembered him saying that to her. We’re not finished. But of course, they were.
She remembered high school, and swimming and boys, and the most important person in her life—Fletcher Wyndham. There was college, and Fletcher again, and then there was a great cracking sound and he was gone.
She felt herself sinking as sleep closed over her. A phantom warmth lay across her legs and turned the darkness to a dense orange color, as though a light shone from above. Trying to stay with her thoughts, she wandered in the wilderness, a dreamscape of disjointed images—laughter turning to sadness, a journey to a destination she didn’t recognize. After that, she sensed a long blank page with unrecognizable flickers around the edges.
No, she didn’t know her age.
She didn’t know anything. Only confusion, pain, breathing through water.
Swimmers, take your marks.
And Annie raced away.
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