The Language of Trees

( 27 )

Overview

Gripping, suspenseful, magical, and richly atmospheric . . . Ilie Ruby's haunting debut novel, The Language of Trees, is exhilarating fiction that announces the arrival of a truly extraordinary storyteller.

Echo O'Connell knows that the summer holds its secrets. They are whispered in the rustling trees, in the lush scent of the lilacs, in the flurry of the mayflies batting against the screen door, and in the restless spirits that seem to clamor in the scant breezes on hot ...

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The Language of Trees

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Overview

Gripping, suspenseful, magical, and richly atmospheric . . . Ilie Ruby's haunting debut novel, The Language of Trees, is exhilarating fiction that announces the arrival of a truly extraordinary storyteller.

Echo O'Connell knows that the summer holds its secrets. They are whispered in the rustling trees, in the lush scent of the lilacs, in the flurry of the mayflies batting against the screen door, and in the restless spirits that seem to clamor in the scant breezes on hot evenings. It is in summer that she returns home to Canandaigua, to confront these spirits, both living and not, and to share a secret with her first love, Grant Shongo—a secret that will forever change the lives of many people in the town and put to rest the mysterious disappearance of a little boy more than a decade earlier.

Grant, a descendant of the Seneca Indians who call this place "The Chosen Spot," has also come back to face his past. After a broken marriage, he has moved into his childhood home, a lake house that has withstood happiness and tragedy. He knows the spirits of the past must be dealt with—that of the little boy who disappeared all those years ago; the boy's sister, who never overcame the loss; and the love Grant still has for Echo. But before the healing must come the forgiveness. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
“Haunting…a literary, emotionally intense ghost story about family secrets and regrets.”
Gregory Maguire
“The Language of Trees, like Whitman’s Leaves of Grass though in a magic realist vernacular, refreshingly asserts that deeply American conviction: the gravest natural instinct is to heal and be healed. A shimmeringly heart-felt story.”
Elizabeth Rosner
“The Language of Trees is a haunting novel about the enduring power of love. Crafted with suspenseful pacing and delicate imagery, Ilie Ruby’s book combines the qualities of an irresistible ghost story with a healing tale of redemption. It’s a vivid and compelling read.”
Diane Chamberlain
“Ilie Ruby’s haunting story seems to spring fully formed from the mystical setting she so beautifully describes. The Language of Trees will make you believe that spirits live on, that hands can heal, and that if you open your heart wide enough, the world is full of second chances.”
James Ragan
“Eloquent and compelling, this book is a luminous gem in the hypnotic waters of seduction. Ilie Ruby’s prose has at once a deeply lush and evocative serenity, poetically imagistic and rhythmically mastered...”
James Brown
“Rarely do debut novels cover the complicated emotional terrain of The Language of Trees. This is no simple right-of-passage story but rather an eloquently written journey that explores our strengths and vulnerabilities, our love of those who most need us, and whom we need most.
Katrina Kittle
“[Ilie Ruby’s The Language of Trees] may just be my favorite book of the summer!”
Jenna Blum
“Ilie Ruby’s THE LANGUAGE OF TREES is as atmospheric as the lake where it takes place--a mesmirizing meditation on the spirit, both of this world and the one beyond.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061898648
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/20/2010
  • Pages: 339
  • Sales rank: 688,289
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Ilie Ruby is a painter and short story author. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband and the three children they adopted from Africa.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 24, 2010

    Loved This Book

    This book was fabulous. One of the best novels my book club has read in a long time! Suffice it to say that I found this book hard to put down. The author's unabashed style and intoxicating prose captivated me until the final page. I felt immersed in the lives of characters whose stories felt real and compelling, whose interconnected trials and triumphs created a complex web of love, lies and legacies. Part love story, part mystery, this is a sensually vivid debut by an author whose stories I will follow time and again.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2011

    An amazing gift of storytelling found in The Language of Trees

    I came across The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby one afternoon and the cover caught my eye as I skimmed a few pages and read the back. At first, I thought," will be a nice read." What I ended up finding was a book that was a true gift that I found I could relate. It is about reconciling with your past and present. Healing and moving forward. Finding Forgiveness, redemption and accepting a love that has always been there. Very few novels have such effect upon reading them as this one did on me. Well written story that gives you a sense of being there as you are reading. Characters that are believable and as a reader can feel their emotions as you are reading. Truly a novel that will capture you start to finish. A true mark of a great story is when you are done reading it you are left feeling you have just lived it. Ilie Ruby is a remarkable story teller and I think has captured something truly remarkable with this novel. Many authors can write a good book, there are very few are great story tellers that can make a book come to life like Ilie Ruby does with The Language of Tress. A must have.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2010

    One of the most memorable books I've read.

    Mystical, haunting, suspenseful. It's a story of restless spirits, healing and second chances. I fell into this book and didn't want to leave it. Ilie Ruby is a master storyteller. The narration is lyrical, the storyline beautifully plotted and the characters hauntingly unforgettable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Ilie Ruby: Praise for the Language of Trees

    A FABULOUS DEBUT by AUTHOR ILIE RUBY: THE LANGUAGE OF TREES

    THE LANGUAGE OF TREES is a bold and beautifully written book that kept me engaged until the finish line--I didn't want it to end. From the moment I opened the pages of this beautiful story, I found myself immersed in the world of Canandaigua and the lives of characters that are as effortlessly human as they are beautifully vulnerable. With her lyricism and honest voice, Ilie Ruby tells a wise and wonderful story set against the backdrop of contemporary Seneca culture and modern-day spirituality. Canandaigua, a place still reeking of the battles that were fought there, becomes the setting for battles of a different kind-those of the mind and spirit, of addiction, love, and forgiveness.

    Nature and the spiritual world are intertwined as the story opens when the three young Ellis children steal a boat and sail into the lake on a rainy night. Only two children return. The mystery of Luke Ellis' disappearance is never solved, and proves to drive the answers to many twists and turns throughout the story. The author seamlessly takes us to the current day, when Echo O'Connell returns home to Canandaigua, to care for her ailing father. At once, despite much trepidation, she reunites with her childhood love, Grant Shongo, who ancestry is Seneca Indian, and who possesses a rare ability to heal the sick in what might currently be depicted as a process of energetic healing. Transcending the limits of religion and culture, Ruby depicts a fascinating and delicate description of this healing process, without ever giving too much away. She paints an engaging portrait of modern-day spirituality that makes us want to know more, especially since Grant is not the only one in town who has the ability to heal.

    Forced long ago to turn his back on his healing gifts, Grant is recovering from his own failed marriage. When he returns to his childhood cabin, he is taken up by the ghost of little Luke Ellis. The spirit of the child is restless, and we find that he has been waiting all this time to set the record straight. Now that his teenage sister has gone missing, leaving her infant son, Luke becomes at once impatient, dragging Grant into a desperate search and in the process, igniting Grant's own sense of purpose and survival.

    With her undeniable lyricism and poetic voice, Ruby takes us on a fascinating journey that refuses to be compartmentalized as mystery or love story, or as secular or nonsecular. This book evades labels, which is precisely why I love it.
    The love stories of many characters throughout the book ground the story while the spiritual realm is never far from our minds. In a fully engaging and beautifully rendered debut, Ruby brings us to place where nothing is as it seems, where the line between pain and forgiveness blurs, and where second chances prevail above all else. This is a book to read over and over again. THE LANGUAGE OF TREES is a beautifully woven debut, depicting the dark and light of the human experience with unabashed honesty and compassion, by an author whose stories I will follow time and again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Wonderful Book!

    I loved this book! A beautiful and haunting narrative of lost opportunities and second chances, of regret and redemption. An unhappy and lost Grant Shongo returns to his hometown of Canandaigua after a bitter divorce. But he's not the only one returning after a long absence, his first love is also back in Canandaigua. The spirit of young boy who drowned in the lake is haunting the Shongo cabin, and a troubled young woman is missing and in terrible danger. Soon secrets are spilling out and Grant has to learn who he really is and accept the gift passed on to him through his Seneca blood to save a life and save himself. Every sentence of this novel was a pleasure to read, Ilie Ruby is a truly gifted storyteller.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2011

    Loved this book

    Nice storytelling ,great weekend read,

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    A Magical, Powerful, and Uplifting Story

    Author Ilie Ruby's rich portrait of the people of Canandaigua Lake, their secrets, their histories, their unrequited passions, their losses, and their quest for second chances, all come together stunningly in The Language of Trees. Written in gorgeous poetic prose, this novel opens with a tragedy that draws the reader into the lives of Ruby's multi-dimensional, disparate, and believable characters. The author's knowledge of the area of Canandaigua, the folklore of the Seneca Indians, is so real, that throughout the book, I felt as if I were standing invisible among the people of Canandaigua, watching myriad stories unfold around me. This is an author who cannot only write, but who deeply understands the human spirit - what threatens it, what kills it, and what heals it. The story flows beautifully as the present and past lives of her character's fight for their rightful place. As Echo O'Connell reunites with her first love, Grant Shongo, who she has not seen since she was seventeen, there is much to sort out. Secrets and spirits float through the air and every character has their pain, their regret, and their unique need for forgiveness. The Language of Trees is a truly magical story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Haunting Debut Novel

    The small town of Canandaigua has a hold on its citizens. Some have grown up and moved away, but find themselves drawn back to their childhood haunts. Others have lived their entire lives in this small community, centered around a lake and the trees and animals and Indian heritage that is evident everywhere.

    There are also secrets. More than a decade ago, a tragedy changed the lives of several families. Three children, two sisters and a brother, fled the wrath of their alcoholic father and took a canoe out on the lake at night. When a storm whipped up, the canoe capsized and the young brother, Luke, disappeared and drowned. That death had many consequences. It broke the marriage of his parents. One sister< Maya, had to be hospitalized with a mental breakdown, while the other, Melanie, became a drug addict. Now Melanie has defeated her addiction and has a good relationship and a baby she loves. But she has gone missing....

    Echo comes back to town to deal with the illness and old age of Joseph, the town's grocer and holder of many secrets. He took Echo in when she was orphaned and provided her with love and security. Grant has also returned to town to try to reconcile his past. He is fleeing a broken marriage, and trying to determine why his father was so distant from him as a child. When he and Echo see each other, they are drawn to rekindle the past where they were each other's first love.

    Ilie Ruby has created a wonderous place, a land that seems shrouded in fog and secrets that the reader must push their way through to discover the secrets that bind these individuals to this place. This is a debut novel and it's haunting voice will linger in readers' minds long after they close the book. This book is recommended for readers who are interested in discovering the items that make people the way they are.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    entertaining regional paranormal mystery

    In 1988, the three preadolescent Ellis siblings (Melanie, Maya and Luke) steal a canoe and row on Canandaigua Lake to Squaw Island while it is storming. However, their trek goes wrong ending with eight years old Maya accusing her older sister for the disappearance of their younger brother.

    After being away for about a year, in 2000, Echo O'Connell comes home to Canandaigua to take care of her ailing dad. Her former childhood lover, Grant Shongo, once a healer with Seneca bloodlines, left Rochester to hide in his family's remote cabin still stunned that his wife Susanna left him. At the cabin, the spirit of Luke pleads with him to uncover the truth as to what happened over a decade ago as the ghost worries about his sister vanishing leaving behind her baby. Grant finds a reason to go on and soon a second one when he and Echo meet.

    This is an entertaining regional paranormal mystery as the strong key cast has failed to move on pass respective tragedies. The story line affirms that forgiving (one's self) is a critical early stage in healing regardless of their personal belief system although the plot uses that of the Seneca people. What happened then and happening now are kept somewhat thin as the fully developed characters with their motivations and values (negative as well as positive) are the focus of the mystical The Language of the Trees.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Evoking the Seneca Indian past of Lake Canandaigua, New York

    In May 1988 a young boy named Mark drowned very close to the shoreline of Squaw Island in the middle of Lake Canandaigua, New York. Yet he could swim like a fish. His two somewhat older sisters survived. What happened? You will have to read the rest of THE LANGUAGE OF TREES to find out. *****

    And you can find the answer on your own, using clues subtly but strategically scattered through the narrative when it takes up again 12 years later in May 2000. *****

    You will also come to know and love the land, sea and sky around this nearly 16 mile long lake. First novelist Ilie Ruby, already a polished poet and professional painter, has a gift for making you feel lake spray on your face and empathize with injured trees and birds. You may never visit Canandaigua, both a lake and a town. But you will think you grew up there. *****

    You will also learn a bit, a very little bit, about Seneca Indian and Iroquois history, culture and religion. The author tries, not very successfully in my case, to make readers believe that Seneca religion and faith healing are still hard at work in late 20th Century America. Long disappeared wolves return to protect Seneca graves both ancient and recent. Birds fly to express their sense of freedom. Dimes appear all the time just as they did when long dead Mark loved to count them and play with them. Dirty prints of small bare feet appear in the dust of the cabin of the Seneca Indian family named Shongo. It was their canoe that the three children took without permission in 1988 to row to Squaw Island, sacred to the memory of long dead Seneca women and children who used to hide there during invasions by the French. *****

    Men and women meet and separate, love and hate and all wonder what really happened that day in May 1988. Did the older sister really see a giant tall as a willow tree digging on Squaw Island just before she capsized the canoe? *****

    The book is well written, its moods memorable. Its characters are, however, forgettable. The story is thin, although competently narrated. There is much low-level mysticism and animism at work throughout the story. But it is all badly welded into the reality of an American lake late in the 20th Century. The book is essentially a series of very good lyric poems and mood music. But the novel form is simply too long to sustain endless bursts of mood and poetry. -OOO-

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2014

    Do not recomment

    Our book club read it. I did not like it at all. I felt like I was back in college and cramming to finish it in time.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Ruby

    She claws at the maple leaves on her tree, tearing them to shreds on a stick.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted September 16, 2011

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    Posted August 9, 2011

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    Posted March 23, 2010

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    Posted August 29, 2010

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    Posted January 13, 2011

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    Posted December 7, 2011

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    Posted January 10, 2011

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    Posted February 17, 2013

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