The Roots of the Olive Tree

The Roots of the Olive Tree

by Courtney Miller Santo
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Meet the Keller family, five generations of firstborn women—an unbroken line of daughters—living together in the same house on a secluded olive grove in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California.

Anna, the family matriarch, is 112 and determined to become the oldest person in the world. An indomitable force, strong in mind and firm in body, she

Overview

Meet the Keller family, five generations of firstborn women—an unbroken line of daughters—living together in the same house on a secluded olive grove in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California.

Anna, the family matriarch, is 112 and determined to become the oldest person in the world. An indomitable force, strong in mind and firm in body, she rules Hill House, the family home she shares with her daughter Bets, granddaughter Callie, great-granddaughter Deb, and great-great-granddaughter Erin. Though they lead ordinary lives, there is an element of the extraordinary to these women: the eldest two are defying longevity norms. Their unusual lifespans have caught the attention of a geneticist who believes they hold the key to breakthroughs that will revolutionize the aging process for everyone.

But Anna is not interested in unlocking secrets the Keller blood holds. She believes there are some truths that must stay hidden, including certain knowledge about her origins that she has carried for more than a century. Like Anna, each of the Keller women conceals her true self from the others. While they are bound by blood and the house they share, living together has not always been easy. And it is about to become more complicated now that Erin, the youngest, is back, alone and pregnant, after two years abroad with an opera company. Her return and the arrival of the geneticist who has come to study the Keller family ignites explosive emotions that these women have kept buried and uncovers revelations that will shake them all to their roots.

Told from varying viewpoints, Courtney Miller Santo's compelling and evocative debut novel captures the joys and sorrows of family—the love, secrets, disappointments, jealousies, and forgiveness that tie generations to one another.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Anna Keller's most ardent wish is to be the oldest person in the world. She's 112 and her chances are pretty good. In fact, five generations of Keller women (mother Anna, daughter Bets, granddaughter Callie, great-granddaughter Deb, and great-great-granddaughter Erin) live together in California's Sacramento Valley, and a geneticist is coming to study their longevity. Although the women appear ordinary, they defy the odds with their unusual life span, and each has secrets that both define and threaten to derail their idyllic existence. When Erin, the youngest Keller, arrives, pregnant and alone, at Hill House after being in Italy for two years, her unexpected return stirs up long-dormant feelings among the women and brings all their guilt, remorse, and secrets to the surface. Her mother, Deb, will be up for parole soon, and Erin is determined to help her secure her release from prison. VERDICT Santo's debut offers a compelling look at five strong women. While the geneticist's findings, which are interspersed throughout the book, could prove distracting to some readers, overall this solid novel will appeal to fans of women's fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 5/5/12; library marketing; 100,000-copy first printing.]—Cynthia A. Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC
Kirkus Reviews
Five generations of unusually long-lived women have family troubles in Santo's oddly static debut. With fourth-generation Deborah just paroled after 20 years in jail for killing her husband, and her daughter Erin about to have a child with no husband in sight, not to mention matriarch Anna (age 112) only one death away from being the oldest person in the world, there ought to be more excitement in the house they share overlooking their olive groves in northern California. Instead, there's simmering resentment and whiny adolescent complaining, which sounds especially self-indulgent coming from 42-year-old Deborah. Granted, her mother, Callie, is thoroughly nasty almost all the time, despite the painkillers she constantly pops for a leg crippled in a bizarre accident, which the author refers to in frustrating fragments over more than 200 pages before finally deigning to tell us exactly what happened. Deborah's violent quarrel with Callie in the hospital where Erin is giving birth is the novel's only truly dramatic scene; the fact that Deborah then jumps parole, disappears and is barely ever referred to again is regrettably typical of Santo's clumsy handling of plot and character. Amrit Hashmi, the geneticist who comes to study Anna and her descendants in the hope of discovering the secret of their longevity, at first seems like something of a nut, judging by a Washington Post column jarringly inserted in the text. Amorous emails exchanged between him and Callie do little to improve our opinion of either, though we're later invited to think of their affair as a life-changing event. Other events that seem to merit attention, such as the birth of Erin's son breaking the line of four firstborn daughters, are not commented on at all. Transcripts of news videotape and a closing folktale are other examples of the author's failure to maintain coherent structure, pacing or tone. Some nice descriptions of the olive groves, but this is too scattershot to make for emotionally satisfying fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781848509863
Publisher:
Hay House, Inc.
Publication date:
10/01/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
675 KB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Courtney Miller Santo teaches creative writing to college students and lives in Memphis with her husband, two children, and retired racing greyhound.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >