Initial reaction: This story was such an emotional rollercoaster, but I loved it. Each of the primary characters had such compelling and engaging perspectives that eventually merged together in a great way. It was also a nice story of family bonds and ties across time and distance.
Robin Benway’s “Far from the Tree” struck me as a story with a lot of heart that came together so well when it was all said and done. It’s primarily a story about the bonds of family across time and distance, and showcases its characters making a lot of tough decisions and going through circumstances that test their strength over the course of time. It’s told through the perspectives of three teens: Grace, Maya, and Joaquin. Each of them are adopted siblings that live in separate households and have grown up in very different circumstances, but they manage to reunite in a way that not only develops the bond between them but ultimately has them examine where they fit in for their own lives and reckonings with past events. Grace has a broken relationship and has given away a baby that she knows would be provided a good home, but grapples with the decision and the change it’s inflicted upon her family and life at school. Maya struggles within her own household with a broken family – between her parents divorcing, her identification as an adoptee compared to her sister, and being in a same-sex relationship with a girlfriend she only keeps at arms length for all the hardships her family endures. And Joaquin is afraid of losing everything that seems good in his life after a terrible run through the foster care system, grappling with an event in his past that leaves him guilt-ridden, and wanting to push what seems like a good thing away for fear of having it all crash down around him.
It seems that when the three of these characters meet each other for the first time, they need to (and in some forms, do) lean on each other in order to come to terms with their unique hardships. The way that Benway weaves each of the characters’ narratives is intimate, evocative and engaging, and I felt for every single perspective character in this book. That’s not to say that this book didn’t have some bows that were a bit too neatly tied by the end, but dangnabit if I wasn’t rooting for them to be happy and have some resolutions by the novel’s end. Even being able to finally figure out alongside the characters what happened to their birth mother and ultimately what led to them being in the households they were respectively, it broke my heart a bit. I thought it was an excellent novel overall, and it’s just one more title that I’ve read in Benway’s overarching work that I’ve really enjoyed. Definitely would recommend and I’d likely reread this for the experience.
Overall score: 4/5 stars.