The Red Tree

( 16 )

Overview

Sarah Crowe left Atlanta to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant-an anthropologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on the property. And as the gnarled tree takes root in her imagination, Sarah risks everything to unearth a revelation planted centuries ago...

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The Red Tree

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Overview

Sarah Crowe left Atlanta to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant-an anthropologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on the property. And as the gnarled tree takes root in her imagination, Sarah risks everything to unearth a revelation planted centuries ago...

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Author Sarah Crowe leaves Atlanta after her girlfriend commits suicide, settling at a homestead in rural Rhode Island in order to finish her latest book, which is well past deadline. There's something sinister about the house, and Sarah quickly learns that the previous tenant, a professor and folklorist named Charles Harvey, killed himself while researching a book about the supernatural folklore of New England. Exploring the basement, Sarah discovers Harvey's manuscript, and she quickly finds herself in the middle of a living nightmare centered on a mysterious red oak tree in the house's yard. VERDICT With its intelligent blend of folklore, horror, and dark fantasy, Kiernan's latest appeal well beyond urban fantasy fans; readers who enjoy Neal Gaiman, Poppy Z. Brite, and Keith Donohue may want to check Lost fans mourning the lack of new episodes will appreciate the similar themes and intricate puzzles here.
Kirkus Reviews
Dark-fantasy specialist Kiernan (Daughter of Hounds, 2007, etc.) delivers a creepy and engaging tale. Portrayed as the posthumously published memoir of a suicide, the narrative is introduced and commented upon by a fictional editor. In the story proper, that suicide, novelist Sarah Crowe, tells of moving into a rural Rhode Island house. There she finds a rather spooky manuscript, written by the house's former tenant, a professor who was driven mad by his obsession with a 130-foot-tall red oak on the property. The tree is apparently full of dark magic and is somehow connected to various deaths throughout the town's history. Before long, Sarah becomes preoccupied with the red oak herself. Horror fans will recognize the familiar Lovecraftian gothic-horror elements-indeed, Lovecraft, Poe and other writers are explicitly referenced in the text-but Kiernan's prose is thoroughly modern, even colloquial, with none of the gothic genre's tendency toward archaic phrasings. She ably keeps the proceedings from devolving into formula, and her portrayals of Sarah's growing obsession, and the violence surrounding the tree, are evocative and chilling. A multileveled novel that will appeal to fans of classic and modern horror.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451462763
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/4/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 803,745
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Caitlin R. Kiernan is the author of nine novels, including Silk, Threshold, Low Red Moon, Murder of Angels, Daughter of Hounds, and The Red Tree. Her award-winning short fiction has been collected in six volumes, including Tales of Pain and Wonder; To Charles Fort, With Love; Alabaster; and, most recently, A is for Alien. She has also published two volumes of erotica, Frog Toes and Tentacles and Tales from the Woeful Platypus. Trained as a vertebrate paleontologist, she currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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(5)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Caitlin R. Kiernan Goes Noir

    While no one can fault Kiernan for atmosphere, language, or dramatic development, this book is a cross between Poe, Lovecraft and Brontë, with such blatantly lesbian themes that they dominate the story-telling.

    Without giving away the punch-line, let it be said that the protagonist Sarah Crowe is a woman whose one-shot literary wonder creates a stultifying case of writer's-block. To transcend it, she leaves her comfortable apartment in Atlanta and begins a self-imposed author's retreat to an abandoned farm-house in Rhode Island.

    The scene is fraught with both terror and nostalgia, for Sarah's one childhood memory of the area is tainted by tragedy, and it colors her perceptions from the very start. She finds a manuscript from the previous occupant, one Dr. Charles L. Harvey, a folklorist who (we come to learn much later) committed suicide by hanging from the boughs of the book's name-sake.

    Sarah undertakes as her own mission an exploration of the dark despair and inward-turning delusions (or are they?) of the dead man, and sets out to write her own story. Clearly a depressive from the start, Sarah slips further and further into madness, intermixed with themes clearly drawn from de Lint and other authors.

    Her lesbian romance with a local is the one bright component in the book, and it is so incongruous that it defies both reason and the normal rules of plot development. Sarah is rough, rude, gruff and generally unpleasant, while her companion is an exact opposite. Rather than allowing the mood of her friend to draw her away from the downward descent she has embarked upon, Sarah spoils her relationship and repels her one-time champion. From there the end of the story is telegraphed chapters before it comes to pass.

    The mystery characters and the fantasy themes that Kiernan is so noted for are here little more than window-dressing. Gothic Romance aficionados might derive some small spark of enjoyment from the language and the mental erosion of the protagonist ("Turn of the Screw" anyone?), but the unhappy conclusion is both predictable and unsatisfying.

    Suffice to say, purists of any genre will find this book sadly lacking and as a cross-over it doesn't make the grade . . . unless of course the reader is a suicidally-depressed lesbian, in which case this book is a road-map of sorts to a place no one else really wants to go.

    While Caitlin R. Kiernan has sometimes been accused of resorting to formula her standard fare is both interesting, well-written and appealing. "The Red Tree" may be formulaic, but it is not her own brand and the difference is telling.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Tree with a Brooding Presence, a Novel with Teeth.

    Don't be scared off by the cover, this is NOT a paranormal romance! This is a novel of eerie events and deep disquiet.

    This latest excursion into the borderland between what is real and what is not is some of Caitlin Kiernan's finest work. Like the very best of her other novels, The Red Tree is the story of one woman's struggle to hold onto her sanity even as she loses her ability to tell facts from illusions.
    Sarah Crowe is an author fleeing from a tradgedy that haunts her. She rents a remote farm in the hope that solitude will help her break through a terrible case of writer's block and get her back on track before she goes completely broke. In the farmhouse she finds a typewriter and a manuscript belonging to a previous tenant who was researching an ancient oak tree on the property prior to hanging himself from said tree. As she reads the manuscript, Sarah succumbs to the lure of the tree becoming obsessed with its history as her sanity wanes.
    This is not a quiet little book. This is a book which had me turning over questions in my mind late at night, had me looking things up in other books and on wikipedia and left me questioning, long after the book was over, what was real and what was not.

    Highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Doors, swinging open and closed

    I wanted to slowly savor this book, but I was unable to resist the siren call of its possibly unreliable narrators. A story within a story within a story, The Red Tree is Kiernan's most complete and extraordinary novel so far. It reaches outwards, ignoring the boundaries of genre and convention to present something thoroughly modern with deep roots. She makes old horrors new, and evokes the gloomy mythos of New England with spare, almost brutal language. The story is so unnerving that I wonder if I will ever take a walk in the woods for granted again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    Unremarkable at best

    There were several times I wanted to just put this book away and stop reading, but I am one of those people who must finish a book once started. In fact, it took me about two months (I can usually read a book in a couple of days) to get through because I couldn't read more than a few entries at a time without losing focus. I still can't quite grasp what the purpose was. The language was unnecessarily complex at times with incredibly obscure references and some of the most basic language was unnecessarily foul, as though the author was trying to prove some kind of point. I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen, and while there were very interesting and promising parts throughout the book, such as all of the basement scenes and each trip to the tree, the ending was incredibly disappointing and somewhat predictable. Each of these scenes seemed to be leading to a different plot entirely. The insertion of two of Sarah's own stories ("Pony" and "A Long Way to Morning") seemed unhelpful to the plot and were a bit too odd for my taste. While this book was incredibly dark and grotesque (as the description promises), the themes throughout seemed very unrelated to one another, leading to a mash up of multiple ideas that, on their own, probably would have led to several great stories. Basically, I feel as though there were a plethora of other options for the author to make this book more enticing that were ignored. The description of this book promises a much more interesting novel than Kiernan delivers. My misfortune is that I purchased this book for my Nook, so it cannot be returned or even given away.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not what I expected

    I must be one of the few who did not find this book enjoyable. This book is about a woman and her descent into depression. The writing is pendantic with the author referring to other works to evoke a mood rather than create her own (and part of what made me angry about this book is the author is exceptionally talented but only shows it in fits and snatches around the references to other authors). If you enjoyed 'The Blair Witch Project' you should enjoy this. I hated Blair Witch because it too hinted at brillance and a good story and then just fizzled and deteriorated into nothing. Bottom line, Poe does madness better and Lovecraft does horror better and you would be better served looking elsewhere for your reading material.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    In some ways this terrific haunting is a throwback to the early Stephen King thrillers

    In Atlanta the suicide of her girlfriend shook writer Sarah Crowe to her core so she decides to leave the region. She feels fortunate to have found an old house on the Wight Farm in a remote part of Rhode Island that she rents.

    She explores her new home and finds an "ancient" typewriter and an unfinished manuscript by Dr. Charles L. Harvey, a noted anthropology folklorist. He apparently was collecting information re the legend of an old oak tree on this property that the locals hold in awe. His work eerily stopped abruptly when he hanged himself from that same oak tree. Sarah tries to ignore the document, but cannot stop thinking about it. She feels spellbound to investigate and begins her own journal while her life feels increasingly depressing and out of her control and macabre under the oak's control.

    In some ways this terrific haunting is a throwback to the early Stephen King thrillers especially The Shining as the audience observes in full fright Sarah slowly yet knowingly losing her mind seemingly to the oak tree. Fans will relish this tale while keeping the lights on throughout the house and considering cutting down trees near their homes as we hypnotically wonder whether THE RED TREE is a psychological thriller or a supernatural tale; either way trees will be avoided by readers.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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