Far From The Tree is one of the books that you’re glad that you’ve read, whilst being simultaneously glad that it came from the library. I enjoyed reading it, but I was slightly disappointed and I know I won’t want to read it again. It was alright, just… fluffy.
Rating: * * *
Plot summary: When 16 year-old Grace gives up her baby for adoption, she decides that the time has come to find out more about her own biological mother. Although her biological mum proves elusive, her search leads her to two half-siblings she never knew existed.
Maya, 15, has been adopted by wealthy parents and seems to have the picture-perfect family – that is, if you look past her alcoholic mother and the fact that Maya stands out like a sore thumb.
Older brother Joaquin hasn’t been so lucky. At 18, he’s shuffled between foster home after foster home, always careful never to get attached to anyone or anything, because it always gets taken away.
When these three siblings come together, they find in themselves the place they can belong, while the secrets they guard threaten to explode…
I was attracted to this as I do a bit of work for Social Services, admittedly the British version, not the type that is the subject of Far From The Tree. I was intrigued by Grace’s decision to give up her own baby for adoption, as well as the ins and outs of the foster/adoption system, as told by three (fictional) characters who had all experienced different end results.
And, to be fair, that’s exactly what you get. Grace is the beloved child of a married couple, who also has to give up her own baby. Maya’s family also has a biological daughter, which causes a few issues, and Joaquin was never adopted at all. Three different people, three different scenarios. Except… not. Not really.
Grace, Maya and Joaquin all have quite similar voices. It’s not the end of the world, as it was a quite likeable voice, and the prose flows quite well. The dialogue isn’t stilted and I was reasonably content to keep turning the pages. However, if each chapter wasn’t labelled with the character’s name, it would have taken me a page or two to work out who was telling the story.
The strongest point of Far From The Tree is Grace’s giving up her baby for adoption. We don’t see it happen as the novel starts a few months down the line, but Grace still has strong emotions about ‘Peach.’ She knows that it was the right thing to do, but she constantly mulls over her loss as she wonders how her daughter is doing with her new family. It’s a little bit sad and quite sweet.
That’s the thing about this book for me, though, and why I didn’t like it as much as I should have. I think I was expecting something a bit darker, and a bit grittier. I mean, come on, the blurb alone sounds shocking. But it’s just not like that at all. Admittedly the pastel colours and the cartoon leaves should have tipped me off. All three characters, including Joaquin, have great lives. Yes, there’s some family drama, but it’s quite light and it’s all easily resolved. Honestly, when you look at it, it doesn’t really affect them all that much. Then they meet each other and some kind of InstaBond happens, after which there is further InstaBonding with everybody else. Even the reason they were in case in the first place is PG-pleasant.
It’s just so fluffy. I’m struggling to work out who this is aimed at. It can’t be children in foster care/the adoption system as there’s pretty much nothing in this book for them to relate to. But it can’t be aiming to educate children in the more traditional family set-ups, because Far From The Tree would give them a very misleading view of the system. It does try to hint that not all families are as super amazing as these three, but I think it fails. Everything is sparkly and nice all the time and everything is roses.
I just would have liked something a bit more dark, gritty and, well, realistic.
In short, even though I’ve rambled a lot for a book I thought was ‘okay,’ Far From The Tree is probably worth reading from an entertainment perspective. The prose is written well and it’s definitely readable. I even liked some of Grace’s background, about her baby. It’s just that there’s definitely something missing, and I think that ‘something’ is an element of realism.