The Courage Tree

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Overview

Eight-year-old Sophie Donohue just wanted to be like every other little girl. Which is why her mother, Janine, reluctantly agreed to let her go on the weekend camping trip with her Brownie troop. But when Janine arrives to pick up Sophie after the trip, her daughter is not among the others. Somehow, along the forested route from West Virginia, Sophie has disappeared.

Sophie is no ordinary 8 year old. She suffers from a rare disease, and Janine has recently enrolled her in an ...

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The Courage Tree

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Overview

Eight-year-old Sophie Donohue just wanted to be like every other little girl. Which is why her mother, Janine, reluctantly agreed to let her go on the weekend camping trip with her Brownie troop. But when Janine arrives to pick up Sophie after the trip, her daughter is not among the others. Somehow, along the forested route from West Virginia, Sophie has disappeared.

Sophie is no ordinary 8 year old. She suffers from a rare disease, and Janine has recently enrolled her in an experimental treatment as a last effort to save her life — despite the vehement objections of her ex-husband, Joe, who believes conventional medicine is the only route to take. The only person to support Janine in her decision is Lucas Trowell, someone familiar with the herbs used in the treatment. Lucas has been encouraging Janine to keep Sophie in the program, and, indeed, the little girl has been showing remarkable improvement.

All her mother’s instincts tell Janine that Sophie is alive, but time is running out. Without her treatment, it’s only a matter of days before Sophie’s illness will claim her life. As Janine, Joe and Lucas embark on a desperate search to find Sophie, envy and suspicion grow between the two men, casting doubts on each other’s true motives for helping Janine.

Deep in the forest, another drama unfolds. Sophie has found refuge in a remote cabin inhabited by a woman who wants nothing to do with the little girl. She’s desperate to help her own daughter, who has been wrongly imprisoned for murder and who, after escaping, is on her way to join her mother. Sophie’s arrival puts in jeopardy her daughter’s future, but the mysterious woman is as determined to save her daughter as Janine is to save Sophie.

Only one of them can succeed.

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Editorial Reviews

Jill M. Smith
Diane Chamberlain pulls out all the stops with this incredibly intense and utterly riveting drama. The emotional turmoil and desperation shown by these characters is poignantly and vividly drawn.
Romantic Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A race against time to find a sick child lost in the West Virginia wilderness keeps pages turning in this suspenseful family drama by former psychotherapist Chamberlain (Breaking the Silence). Janine Donohue lives with her eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, on the Ayr Creek estate in Vienna, W.Va., a horticultural reserve operated by the descendants of the original owner. Janine's parents live in the main house, while Janine, a former Army Reserve helicopter pilot, and Sophie, who suffers from renal failure, live in the guesthouse. Despite resistance from her parents and ex-husband, Joe, Sophie is being treated with a new alternative herbal therapy, Herbalina, at the suggestion of estate horticulturist Lucas Trowell. The promising results have allowed Sophie to accompany her Brownie troop on a weekend camping trip. Joe blames Janine for Sophie's illness, believing it is a result of Gulf War syndrome, and disapproves of Sophie's trip. Sophie, her friend Holly and troop leader Allison travel in a separate car on the return journey, then an accident kills Holly and Allison. When the three don't arrive back with the rest of the troop, the police begin to search the dense West Virginia woods. Dazed, scared and weak without her medicine, Sophie manages to make it to a dilapidated cabin, where aging film star Zoe is hiding out. Zoe is awaiting the arrival of her daughter Marti, on the lam after a jailbreak, and Zoe is prepared to do anything to ensure her daughter's safety after many years of neglect. Meanwhile, Janine's parents and Joe suspect Lucas of foul play. Despite some cramped characterizations and too many narrative trails converging at once, this page turner will please those who like their stories with as many twists and turns as a mountain road. Multicity author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552042540
  • Publisher: Durkin Hayes Publishing, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 2 Cassettes
  • Product dimensions: 4.62 (w) x 6.94 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Midwife's Confession and The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. Diane lives in North Carolina and is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her Web site at www.dianechamberlain.com and her blog at www.dianechamberlain.com/blog and her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Diane.Chamberlain.Readers.Page.

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Read an Excerpt



Prologue


She would have no music where she was going.

    Zoe stood in the center of her living room, with its vaulted ceilings, white carpeting and glassed-wall view of the Pacific Ocean, and stared, transfixed by the huge speaker in the corner of the room. She'd come to terms with the fact that she would lose the beach and the smell of the sea. She knew she could live without television—gladly without television and its bevy of new, young talent—and she could live without newspapers and magazines. But no music? It suddenly seemed like a deal breaker. But then her eyes drifted to the picture of Marti, where it rested on the top of the baby grand piano. Marti had been twenty in that picture, standing next to Max on the beach. She was near Max, but not touching him, and there was no sense of connection between father and daughter, as though each of their pictures had been taken separately and then spliced together. It disturbed Zoe to see that distance between them. If the picture had been of herself and Marti, would they look equally as detached from one another? she wondered. She feared that they would. It was time to change that.

    In her boyish way, Marti looked beautiful in the picture. Zoe studied the short cap of blond hair, the compact, small-breasted body, huge blue eyes and long dark lashes that gave away Marti's identity as a female, and Zoe knew she was making the right decision. In a choice between music and Marti, there was no contest. Everything else in the universe paled in comparison to Zoe's need to save her daughter.

    She turnedaway from the wall of stereo equipment and began climbing the broad spiral staircase to the second story, her resolve once again intact. It was quite simple, really, leaving forever. She had planned well ahead and now had no need even to pack a suitcase. What could she possibly put in a suitcase that would last her the rest of her life? Besides, someone might realize a suitcase was missing. Unlikely, since she had an entire room on the third story filled with luggage; but still, it was possible, and she couldn't take that chance.

    She walked into Max's bedroom. She and Max had slept together for the forty years of their marriage, but they'd each had their own bedroom in addition to the master suite they'd shared. Their separate rooms had been for times alone, times of renewal and refreshment, for reading without disturbing one another, for making phone calls late into the night when one of them was working on a project. It was in Max's room where she knew she would find exactly what she needed.

    Opening the door to Max's walk-in closet, she was startled by the spicy aroma that enveloped her. Max's aftershave still filled this room, four full months after his death. She had not touched the clothes that hung in neat rows along the walls of the closet since that miserable day in November, and they slowly took on a blurred, surrealistic shape before her eyes. How was it that scent could instantly evoke so much pain? So many memories? But no time for them now. She brushed her hand across her eyes as she pulled the step stool from the corner of the closet toward the shelves in the rear. Climbing onto the stool, she reached toward the back of the top shelf.

    Her hand felt the soft-sided rifle case, and she wrapped her fingers around it and drew it down from the shelf. Climbing off the stool, she rested the green case containing Max's rifle carefully, gingerly, on the carpeted floor of the closet, then returned to her perch on the stool. Reaching onto the shelf once again, she found the box of bullets, then the Beretta pistol and a few loose clips. Never before had she touched these guns, and she hadn't approved of Max having them. Probably the only thing they'd ever disagreed about.

    "Max Garson's death marks the end of one of the longest running and, by all accounts, most harmonious marriages in Hollywood," People magazine had written.

    For the most part, that had been a highly accurate assessment. And right now, Zoe was glad Max had defied her when it came to the guns. She was doubly glad she had told her friends about the rifle and the pistol and where they were hidden. They would tell the police, and the police would discover the guns were missing. Perfect.

    The police would no doubt talk to Bonita, the therapist Zoe had seen for "grief counseling," as well. Zoe had not needed to employ her acting skills to fake her symptoms of depression.

    "Do you think about suicide?" Bonita had asked her on one recent visit, when Zoe had been particularly tearful.

    "Yes," she had nodded truthfully.

    "Do you have a plan?" Bonita asked.

    The question had shaken Zoe for an instant. How could Bonita possibly know? But then she realized Bonita was asking her if she had considered how she would end her life. Nothing more than that.

    "No," she had answered, knowing full well that if she said she had a plan, Bonita would arrange to have her locked up someplace, and wouldn't the tabloids have a field day with that. Zoe most certainly did have a plan. Just not the sort of plan to which Bonita was alluding.

    She carried the guns into the bedroom and caught sight of herself in the mirror above the dresser. The image horrified her. She looked completely ridiculous. Her long blond hair fell across the rifle case, her deep bangs hung all the way to her eyelashes, and there was something about the lighting in the room that made her skin look sallow, her eyes sunken. She was a large woman. She'd always been tall and full-figured, and back in her James Bond days, she'd been considered voluptuous, but now she was simply big. Amazonian. An aging sex goddess. She had bristled when she'd read those words about herself somewhere, but suddenly, she understood them to be the truth. Who had she been trying to kid, still wearing her hair the way she had when she was twenty-five, coloring the heck out of it to mask the gray? She looked away from the mirror and headed for the stairs. There would be no more two-hundred-dollar trips to the beauty salon in her future, and the thought was rather liberating.

    Downstairs, she walked through the kitchen and out into the garage, where she rested the guns on the back seat of her silver Mercedes. Returning to the house, she sat down at the dining room table and gave her attention to what would be her final—and most difficult—task in this home she had cherished for so many years.

    Staring down at the sheet of cream-colored parchment on the table in front of her, she picked up the Pelikan fountain pen Marti had given her several Christmases ago, on a day when the world had still seemed benevolent and the future still held promise. She rested the nib of the pen on the paper.

    I see no choice but to end my life, on this, the eve of my sixtieth birthday, she wrote. Leaning away from the paper, cocking her head to the side, she noted that her penmanship looked like that of an old woman. Her hand quivered above the page.

    "Pathetic old cow," she muttered to herself, then continued writing.

    My life is not worth much anymore. My beloved husband is dead; my daughter has been wrongly, cruelly imprisoned for the murder of Tara Ashton; the tabloids persist in noting each new wrinkle on my face, and I'm losing my singing voice. Although my acting skills are at their peak, they go unrecognized these days. Parts that once would have come to me are now given to actresses much younger than myself.

    Zoe stopped writing for a moment and looked out the window toward the ocean. That last sentence made her sound small and bitter. She could leave it out, but then she would have to start the letter all over again. And what did she care what anyone thought of her at this point? She laughed at the bruised ego, the irritating narcissism that had dogged her these past few years and that seemed intent on following her to her counterfeit grave.

    What do I have left to live for? she began writing again. I hope to take my life somewhere where I won't be found. I don't want to be seen in that condition. Marti, I'm sorry, darling. I'm so sorry I failed you. I tried every possible avenue I could to help you prove your innocence, but the system has failed both of us. The tears were quick to come this time. One fell on the paper, and she blotted it from the word innocence with the side of her hand.

    She had failed Marti—in far too many ways—choosing the demands of her career over the needs of her daughter at every turn, placing Marti's day-to-day care in the hands of nannies, sending her off to boarding school to let someone else deal with her moods and her mischief.

    Suspicion would never have fallen on you had you not been my daughter, she wrote. Zoe's daughter. I love you, dearest. Zoe's breath caught in her throat, and she stared out the window at the sea for a long moment before continuing. Be strong, she wrote. All my love, Mother.

    Moving the sheet of paper to the center of the table, she stood up, blotting her damp palms on her khaki-covered thighs. Her knees barely held her upright as she walked toward the garage, and her entire body trembled now, from the gravity of the lies she had just committed to writing, and from the fear of the journey she was about to make.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Poignant family drama

    In Virginia, a desperate Janine Donahue accepts an alternative medicine to help her dying eight-year-old child Sophie with her kidney disease. Janine already feels guilty over the stillborn death of her child years ago and she believes that her role in the Arabian Peninsula caused the damage to Sophie. When the child seems to have improved by using Herbalina, Janine allows Sophie to go to an overnight Brownie camp over the objections of her parents and her ex-spouse Joe. <P>However, something went wrong as the scout leader, another child, and Janine never make it back to the pick-up point where Sophie waits in a state of panic. The police become involved and Sophie searches for her lost child. Her parents and Joe condemn Janine, who knows the trio plans to force her to give up custody in a court battle. Only the strange Lucas Trowell seems to be on Janine¿s side. Will they find the lost child in time because Sophie desperately needs her medicine and dialysis now? <P> THE COURAGE TREE is a powerful relationship suspense novel centering on the fear adults feel for their children, especially an ailing child. The story line pulls out all the punches, as Janine with the exception of Lucas feels alone with her parents and Joe piling on the guilt. The subplot involving the aging amazon actress adds little to an already stalwart, poignant drama. Still, Diana Chamberlain shows her abilities with this deep taut thriller. <P>Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2009

    Wonderful story!!

    This is a fantastic book! I could not put it down and everyone that I have recommended it to has felt the same way. This was my second book of Diane Chamberlain's and I have already bought the rest of them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2004

    La voix du 3600

    Really touching, really thrilling, really amazing. In one word: PERFECT! Chamberlain is the author I've been waiting to read over and over again. - Vincent Labadie

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    Enjoyable, suspenseful, and engaging!

    This was my second book to read by Chamberlain, and I can officially say I am hooked! I am a big Jodi Picoult fan, but having finished all of her books, I searched for similar authors and came across this author. She has a completely different style to her writing and her characters carry quite different personality traits than Picoult's, but something about their writing is similar.
    This story had me guessing right up to the end, but carefully placed, subtle clues had me on the right track. I stayed up all night to get to the end...yes, I felt it was THAT interesting, and the ending was worth the trade of sleep! Characters are well developed, story is engaging from page 1 to the ending, and my emotions were evoked as I read. I definitely recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2011

    Enjoyable

    Much was predicable , but there were so many twists and turns that kept me turning the pages. For an enjoyable book, i would recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Book

    I will admit that in the beginning it seemed to drag a little for me, but it's one of those you need to read the first few chapters to get it. Once I got through the first few chapters I started getting into it and before I knew it I finished the book. I do reccommend this book along with all of Diane Chamberlain's books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2001

    Great Read!!!

    I just finished reading this book and I could not put it down. I recommend it for anyone who has a sick child or has ever been a sick child themselves. A wonderful blend of intrigue, good story telling, and human spirit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 1, 2013

    This is a mother-centric plot. Two families with mothers at the

    This is a mother-centric plot. Two families with mothers at the helm of two stories that eventually connect.
    The first is about two parents colliding when it comes to the medical care of their sick child.
    I just want to have a wee grumble at Janine's parents. I mean come on now, her own parents act as if her ex-hubby is their son and they treat their own daughter like a 15 yr old with the mental capacity of a gnat.
    No insult intended towards gnats.
    I would have liked to have seen Janine assert herself in some way when it came to her ex and her parents. That did not happen. Annoying and a complete paradox from a personality perspective in relation to her being a veteran helicopter pilot with combat experience. So flying and taking down the enemy is no problem but she cowers at each word uttered by her parents.
    Strange that Chamberlain chose to make Janine such a wishy-washy character, despite depicting her as a mother who defies all to try and get her daughter healthy.
    Then you have the contradiction of everyone being sidetracked by secondary issues during the search for Sophie. You're a parent and your child is missing does anything take precedence over that?
    Simultaneously we have the story of the middle-aged famous actress Zoe. She is willing to give up everything to protect her child and compensate for past mistakes.
    Motherly love and the boundaries that love is willing to cross regardless of the consequences. Of course the story also questions whether those boundaries are crossed because of the egotism of the parent, the welfare of the child or perhaps a combination of the two.
    I received a copy of this book courtesy of Harlequin MIRA.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Awesome - Diane Chamberlain definitely knows how to write a good story!

    Diane Chamberlain writes in a way that makes it so easy to get caught up in the story. This book is no exception. A definite must-read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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