The Eve Tree, by Rachel Devenish Ford, is a book I’ve been waiting a long time to read. I’ve been privileged to know Rae for many years, from our first meeting in San Francisco, to the months spent together in Thailand, India, and Nepal in 2000. I’ve enjoyed her blog, journeymama.com, since she started it. She writes candidly about living a semi-nomadic life with her Superstar Husband and four children. Rachel is an artist at heart, and pours herself into creating, whether that is her family, their community, a painting, her blog or a book.
The Eve Tree is a novel that is more than the sum of its words, a story finely crafted and lovingly shaped by its author. On the surface, it’s a simple plot about a family, the land that is their heritage, and how they come together to prepare for a forest fire that is encroaching upon the ranch. At its center are Jack and Molly Boscelli, parents of three grown children and caretakers of their Northern California ranch home. As the threat of fire grows they’re joined by Catherine, Molly’s mother and previous owner of the ranch, as well as their children. While the family gathers to defend their land, they also share concerns over Molly, who had suffered a mental breakdown many years before.
What struck me most about The Eve Tree was how real the characters seem, and the way Rachel Devenish Ford has carefully crafted their relationships with one another. We see Molly as both a mother and a daughter, a wife, a friend; she is both fragile and strong. Jack is a faithful and loving husband, fighting as hard to protect his wife as to defend their ranch. Through vignettes into the history of the characters, the reader begins to understand how each has been shaped by their collective experiences.
While this is a fictional story, its players are completely believable.They are people who are broken, but not beyond healing. They have faith, but it is interwoven with doubt. While they have been shaped by their past, they can choose to move forward. They live with regret and shame and hurt, but they also hold onto hope and forgiveness. They are complicated, just like me and you, and yet simple in their basic desire for love and understanding and wholeness.
The Eve Tree is about more than just a forest fire and land and trees and a house; it’s about the things in our own lives that threaten to ravage and destroy. It’s about hope and healing and beauty rising from ashes. Rachel Devenish Ford shows a deep and hopeful understanding of humanity and a sensitivity to what she calls “the dark slippery places of the mind”. Days after finishing it, I find myself thinking about Jack and Molly and their family. The Eve Tree is an excellent first novel, and I look forward to reading more from this author.
The Kindle Edition of The Eve Tree is available for only $2.99 for a limited time only. It's also available in hard copy.