The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

Shep Stanley is murdered when he is just fifteen years old, leaving his mother, Irene, bereft of the will to live. Disjointed and unable to connect with the world around her, she becomes a stranger to her family and friends, moving through life but never really feeling anything.

Filled with an all-consuming hate for her sons killer, Daniel Robbin, her days are consumed with dreams of retribution. Weeks, months, years spent fantasising about justice and the day he will be sentenced to death.

But after years of bitter loathing Irene begins to realise that she cannot go on living on the sustenance of hate. It’s forgive or die and so she digs deep into her heart and somehow finds the strength to forgive the boy who stole her son’s life.

Irene writes to Daniel informing him of her forgiveness, Irene has no idea that they will embark on a ten-year relationship, never meeting, but writing back and forth to one another for years.

When ten years later his warrant for execution is finally passed, Irene is once again lost. How can she stand to lose someone else?

The novel reaches a fever pitch as the date for Daniel’s death looms closer and Irene’s family learn the truth about her desperation to save Daniel. I found myself tearing through the pages desperate to see if he would be saved, all the while unsure if I really thought he should be.

I love books that challenge my ideas and force me to re-evaluate my opinions. The Crying Tree is the master of this and below my fascination to find out Daniels fate, lay deeper and more complex musings.

I’d always had rather abstract feelings about the death penalty, it’s not a concept that I relish, but in some extreme cases I will confess to assuming it could be apt.

But the wonderful thing about Rahka’s writing is the way she really forces her readers to rethink everything they’ve ever thought about an issue. As I read on, a light was lit on my own ignorance, here I was condoning people and making claims about my own capacity for forgiveness, when really I had never given enough thought to the idea of corporal punishment or what true forgiveness is.

Rakha gives humanity and life to Daniel Robbin, revelling a man with a past, feelings and the capacity for love and sorrow. Whilst the rest of the rest world continue to perceive him as a cold-blooded murder, Irene begins to see him as a young man who made a huge mistake.

Nothing is simple or as it seems in this moving and beautiful story. Rakha writes with a gentle, melancholy tone, never rushing her story or bogging it down with overly dramatised events. Instead she allows a very human and in turn real story to blossom. There is something harrowing in the journey Irene must take and I felt humbled by her actions.

I wish there were more books like this, one’s that hold my attention and compel me to read on, all the while changing the way I see the world.

Has anyone else read The Crying Tree, if so did you enjoy it? Did it force you to rethink your idea’s? Or did the novel fail to stir your emotions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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