Medusa Tree

Medusa Tree

4.0 2
by Mylene Dressler

View All Available Formats & Editions

In the tradition of Amy Tan and Gloria Naylor, Dressler brings us a bold and heartfelt debut about a family of Dutch-lndonesian women who manage, despite their differences, to give one another sanctuary. Rich in culture and character.


In the tradition of Amy Tan and Gloria Naylor, Dressler brings us a bold and heartfelt debut about a family of Dutch-lndonesian women who manage, despite their differences, to give one another sanctuary. Rich in culture and character.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two storiespast and presentvie uncomfortably for attention in this slim volume. Narrator Marget, 22, has come, at the behest of her mother, to Northern California to check up on her two "grandmothers," Fan and Gerda. Marget's got more on her mind than Gerda's knee surgery: she's unmarried and pregnant. Her problems remain relatively peripheral and unexplored, however, existing mainly as a conduit for Dressler to tell the tale of Fan and Gerda, who became lovers during the WWII displacement of Dutch Indonesians. A mixture of European and Javanese blood is the women's only common trait. Fan, Marget's maternal grandmother, is the spiritual beauty, the orphan who needs taking care of. Gerda is strong, a tennis player who manipulates the Japanese occupation forces; after the war, she helps Fan and her infant daughter, Frances, as they move from Indonesia to Singapore to Holland and finally to the U.S. Dressler's first novel vividly evokes the mores, ambience and words of Dutch Indonesia. But, aside from some exhortations by the unsuspecting Fan to procreate, Marget's story is never meaningfully integrated with the tale of the grandmothers. There's character here, and setting, but there's not quite enough dramatic ligament to hold it all together. (May)
Library Journal
Twenty-two and newly pregnant, professional dancer Marget flees to the safety of the California home of her two immigrant "grandmothers." Strong and blunt, and still protective of her fragile life partner, 81-year-old Gerda needs major surgery. Marget's beautiful biological grandmother Fan prepares for her impending role as Gerda's caretaker with touching inexperience and determined bravery. Marget, who only wants to disappear into their love without revealing her own burdensome secrets, gently draws from them memories of their survival during the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies. The web of love spun by these three women is a vibrant story, lyrically told. One can only hope that natural-born storyteller Dressler is already at work on her second novel.Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., Mich.
Kirkus Reviews
First-novelist Dressler tells a largely formulaic tale of a Dutch-Indonesian woman making a new life in California after surviving WW II.

When the narrator, twentysomething Marget, a dancer, comes to help out while Gerda, one of her two grandmothers, has knee surgery, she's not entirely motivated by family piety. She's pregnant, the affair with the baby's father is over, and, as is usual in the genre, there are matters of family history to be resolved. Admitting that she comes from a family who "don't like to name things. . . [who] prefer to keep them folded away in shut drawers," Marget soon alerts us to upcoming revelations. Fan and Gerda, her grandmothers, are of mixed Dutch and Indonesian blood, born in Indonesia when it was still a Dutch colony. Only Fan, in actuality, is Marget's blood relative. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia, Gerda, a champion tennis player and the widow of a wealthy businessman, rescued Fan and her baby daughter, Marget's mother, and kept them out of the internment camps by playing tennis for the Japanese. When the Japanese retreated and civil war broke out, Gerda and Fan—by then lovers—and the baby fled first to Singapore, then to Holland. Fan's husband, who'd been a prisoner of war, divorced her, and then the trio immigrated to California. In the days leading up to Gerda's operation, Marget has ample time to reflect on her family's history, to observe how the women have aged, and to ponder her own situation, which she has kept secret from the family. The operation is a success, and she learns a few family secrets from an aunt that only deepen her love for Fan. Armed with the obligatory empowering insight ("the past sometimes makes an answer in the future"), Marget is now ready to have her baby.

Luminous prose isn't enough to spark a low-watt story.

Product Details

MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.29(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.81(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Medusa Tree 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Tamara87 More than 1 year ago
I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Dressler at my college, Columbus State University. She spoke to my class and answered our questions. She is very invigorating and spunky. She was kind, intelligent, and open to our interpretations of her work. I had to read The Deadwood Beetle for a class and I picked this novel up after meeting her and discussing the book with her. I love Mylene Dressler's books and this being first, it is not as great as The Deadwood Beetle. It only took a couple of days to read. I got a little bored with it at times but when I finished it, I was glad I had read it. Its a great, quick story with great description of family dynamics, our interactions with people, and relationships.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dressler's Medusa Tree is a charming tale of the love and bonds of family that become even stronger in the face of adversity. Having had the honor of having Dressler as a teacher in college, her novel has inspired me to try and write of my own heritage and family.