The Lion Trees: Part Two: Awakening

The Lion Trees: Part Two: Awakening

by Owen Thomas

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Overview

What happens when you get the life you aim for and it hurts like hell?

The Johns family is unraveling. Hollis, a retired Ohio banker, isolates himself in esoteric hobbies and a dangerous flirtation with a colleague's daughter. Susan, his wife of forty years, risks everything for a second chance at who she might have become. David, their eldest, thrashes to stay afloat as his teaching career capsizes in a storm of accusations involving a missing student and the legacy of Christopher Columbus. And young Tilly, the black sheep, having traded literary promise for an improbable career as a Hollywood starlet, struggles to define herself amid salacious scandal, the demands of a powerful director, and the judgments of an uncompromising writer.

By turns comical and poignant, the Johns family is tumbling toward the discovery that sometimes you have to let go of your identity to find out who you are.

[A] cerebral page turner...a powerful and promising debut.-Kirkus Reviews

[Five Stars]...[A] powerful, gripping and realistic story...The Lion Trees does what so very few great novels can: it will take a lot out of you, but leave you with much more than you had when you began -Pacific Book Reviews, a five star review.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780692248379
Publisher: OTF Literary
Publication date: 08/13/2014
Pages: 804
Product dimensions: 8.90(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Owen Thomas, a lifelong Alaskan with an abiding love of original fiction, is a product of the Anchorage School District and a graduate of Duke University and Duke Law School. While managing an employment litigation practice in Alaska, Thomas has written three novels: Lying Under Comets: A Love Story of Passion, Murder, Snacks and Graffiti; The Lion Trees; and a novel of interconnected short fiction entitled Signs of Passing: Letters from Winchester County, winner of the 2014 Pacific Book Awards for Short Fiction. Owen maintains an active fiction and photography blog on his author website at www.owenthomasfiction.com.

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The Lion Trees: Part Two: Awakening 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
HanaKolea More than 1 year ago
This two-volume juggernaut is an orgy of literary yummy - and way more fun than a serious work of fiction has a right to be. I’m always looking for a novel that has it all: credible characters, an entertaining story line, suspense, humor, good writing, something unexpected, a satisfying ending, and a meaningful theme. It’s a tall order for any author, so I was surprised to find the whole package in a debut novel. “The Lion Trees” unfolds in four interwoven narratives. The Hollis chapters are told in a deft third-person voice infused with the character’s point-of-view. I think it says something about the maturity of the author that as Hollis shambles through his character arc, we root for him even as we want to punch him in the nose. The Susan chapters are told entirely through dialogue. The Tilly chapters are told in the first-person from a retrospective 60 years in the future, and I must say, it was poignant and compelling to listen to a woman with end-of-life wisdom recall the missteps of her turbulent youth. The David chapters are engagingly told in the first-person as his life sprawls away from him in a debacle that is outrageous and yet relatable. “The Lion Trees” has a profound central theme, combined with astute character studies, some social observation, genuine soulfulness, and a good sense of humor. It’s a deeply satisfying read. And yet, let me offer at least one criticism. There is something unsettling about Susan’s character. I never got a good grasp on her, and while her frustrations and triumphs are plausible, we don’t encounter them with the same sharp humanity that the author creates for the other main characters.  And then there is the length of the book. What can I say? It’s long. But if you’re thinking that a book this size must be an impenetrable mess or a tedious slog, then you are in for a nice surprise. Four distinct voices keep the narration fresh. The drama is engrossing. And the story becomes a suspenseful page-turner as the novel picks up momentum. Reading this book reminded me of binge-viewing an HBO series, or reading a trilogy back-to-back. I emerged at the end feeling like I’d been somewhere. The other advantage of a super-size novel is that the author gets to take the reader on an occasional detour. These secondary characters add delicious texture to an already multilayered story, and because the subplots are well crafted, they meld seamlessly into the greater story without feeling extraneous. I found that the minor characters advanced the central theme of the book and were fascinating in their own right. I want my book club to select this book even though it’s a two-volume set. I visited the author’s website and discovered that he is willing to participate in discussions, which I think is fantastic. (It’s a cool website).  As a point of reference for those who like comparisons, this book has the family dynamics of “The Corrections,” the story-within-a-story of “The Blind Assassin,” the alternating voices of “The Poisonwood Bible,” the social incisiveness of “A Man in Full,” the wry irreverence of “The Financial Lives of Poets,” and the timeless quality of “A Prayer for Owen Meany” (with a dash of Bradbury sci-fi on the side). I know this is an exuberant review - especially since I’m constantly exasperated by blurbs that declare every book to be Amazing! Astounding! Breathtaking! - nevertheless, this novel is truly a standout and I loved its audacious length and ambition. 
Pacificbookreview More than 1 year ago
et me just start by saying I loved The Lion Trees – and you will too. This is a powerful, gripping and realistic story. Once, a few decades ago, many authors would set out to write “The Great American Novel,” hoping to tap into whatever it is which makes the US and its people so unique and hopeful, particularly at a set point in time. The Grapes of Wrath comes to mind as such a novel. These days it doesn’t seem like anyone tries to write those kind of seminal novels anymore… until now. I don’t know that The Lion Trees will be held in this regard by others, but it certainly struck a nerve with me and I hope one day it comes to be considered a “Great American Novel.” The story is lengthy, over 2,150 pages, but never dull. Don’t be intimated by the length. The novel is worth every minute you spend wrapped inside its world. At the center of the novel are Matilda- “Tilly”- and David, and their parents, Hollis and Susan Johns. There is a fifth family member, Ben, a mentally challenged son who lives with his parents. The majority of the chapters focus on one of the four, and the author uses this to good effect when we see, for instance, the differing points of views and references of each of them at times when they interact with one another, even going so far as to change the point of view of the narrative at times. This alteration of the narration is an interesting plot machinations demonstrating Owen Thomas’ skill as an author. Tilly is an actress, one originally known mostly for getting naked and having affairs with her directors, but now earning respect for a recent role which earned her an Academy Award nomination. David is a school teacher, fighting an uphill battle against students who mostly don’t give a damn about learning. Hollis is a retired banker, with a bit of a drinking problem, who spends much of his time huddled away in the basement, contemplating eastern philosophy, and avoiding his wife. Then there is Susan, a wife and mother who was beginning to regret past opportunities she did not pursue and trying to exert herself as an individual by getting involved volunteering with political groups. A brief prologue introduces us to Matilda, late in her life, lying down a bit of intrigue regarding the story to come. As we come to learn, Tilly is making a sci-fi movie, “The Lion Tree.” It’s based upon a story by an author named Angus Mann and being directed by Blair Gaines, who is determined to perfectly translate the story from print to film. Problems mount and tensions build, resulting in Gains ditching the project and starting it over from scratch, causing Tilly angst and problems also. David is a fairly dedicated educator, trying hard to convince his students to learn. Underpaid, and occasionally dependent on his father for financial help, David loves teaching high school, while his father continually pushes for him to move up the ladder and teach in college. David makes the mistake of running into a student at a club and when she turns up missing, finds himself the primary suspect in her missing person case. Hollis is clearly not enjoying retirement, in fact, there are hints that he was forced to retire. In fact, he has come to despise his wife, doing all he can to avoid her. His interests, and his hopes for a different future, are roused when the daughter of a Japanese acquaintance visits to check out grad schools, and Hollis offers to show her around and introduce her to his banker friends, hoping she might land an internship. Susan has just found herself reinvigorated by volunteering in a failed political campaign, and now wants to do more, including going to an upstate workshop. Of course, she also is worried about Ben, since she has been his primary caregiver and doesn’t necessarily trust Hollis to take care of him. From these varied points, the book grows and entangles the reader in the lives of these people. Author Owen Thomas tells a “slow, careful story”- a reference to the prologue, and you’ll be glad he did. This is a wonderful, well thought out, well written tale, worth every minute, every hour, and every day that you spend in it. Mr. Thomas’ style is straightforward and easy (even with the various dialects he employs perfectly). He uses simple, detail oriented diction, creating a wonderful base on which to build such a story. The Lion Trees does what so very few great novels can:   it will take a lot out of you, but leave you with much more than you had when you began.
gbowers More than 1 year ago
I was so anxious to continue reading about the family. I was not disappointed with the "awakening" of each character  and the weaving of lives that on the surface appears to be eventful. However, as the book develops into more intense  relationships I found myself anxious to know how their dilemmas would be resolved, read all hours of the night.  I was never disappointed by the twist and turns, and found myself a little disappointed when the book came to an end. Very well written, a must read. 
MargieS1 More than 1 year ago
Given To Me For An Honest Review The Lion Trees: Part Two: Awakening (Volume 2) by Owen Thomas is the continuing story of the Johns family.  Again this story is such a realistic story.  It is very gripping and powerful.  It has great character development.  Since it is so soulful, humorous and meaningful I have to say it's not a must read it's a HAVE to read. Each family member's story is very important on it's own but since the family is connected in a lot of ways, all of these characters are compelling because of how they are connected to each other.  You will be on the edge of your seat as you continue reading the Johns story.  It is a page turner and there are many unexpected twists and turns.  You will find it hard to put the book down until the end.  When you are finished you will be wanted more. I  gave this book 5 stars but it truly deserves many more.  I highly recommend it to all.  I look forward to more from Owen Thomas.       The Lion Trees: Part Two: Awakening (Volume 2) by Owen Thomas is the continuing story of the Johns family.  Again this story is such a realistic story.  It is very gripping and powerful.  It has great character development.   Since it is so soulful, humorous and meaningful I have to say it's not a must read it's a HAVE to read. Each family member's story is very important on it's own but since the family is connected in a lot of ways, all of  these characters are compelling because of how they are connected to each other. The Lion Trees: Part Two: Awakening (Volume 2) by Owen Thomas is the continuing story of the Johns family.  Again this story is such a realistic story.  It is very gripping and powerful.  It has great character development.  Since it is so soulful, humorous and meaningful I have to say it's not a must read it's a HAVE to read. Each family member's story is very important on it's own but since the family is connected in a lot of ways, all of these characters are compelling because of how they are connected to each other.   You will be on the edge of your seat as you continue reading the Johns story.  It is a page turner and there are many unexpected twists and turns.  You will find it hard to put the book down until the end.  When you are finished you will be wanted more. I  gave this book 5 stars but it truly deserves many more.  I highly recommend it to all.  I look forward to more from Owen Thomas.   
Robert-S-Osborne More than 1 year ago
Owen Thomas's new two-volume novel, The Lion Trees, arguably lacks the "increasing economy of expression" that he attributes to the writing of one of his central figures. However, it is precisely the Socratic detail with which he examines the lives of his characters, the leisurely and time-shifting unpeeling of the onion layers of their personalities, that makes these books such a worthwhile pleasure to read. A lesser writer could have set forth declarative statements of existential philosophy with more succinct expression, but only a master novelist can lead his readers to experience the rich contours of his characters' lives and to draw their own conclusions and meanings from them, as Thomas has done in this powerful work. In a previous review of The Lion Trees, Part One: Unraveling, I wrote about a central theme of identity that was introduced in the first volume. Are we doomed to replay the central elements of our characters over and over again, like an actress playing a part, or perhaps even being recast in the same persona for multiple iterations of a film production? Can we ever escape that wheel of pain by finally getting it right, nailing the role? Is this high Buddhist philosophy or the insightful comedy of Groundhog Day? In Part Two: Awakening, answers are provided, or at least suggested, and they are, I am pleased to say, hopeful. The story of the lion tree, recounted by a fictional persona played by an actress, is a metaphor that combines survivor guilt, abandonment and the cycle of return. It is emblematic of the lives of Susan, the mother in the dysfunctional Johns family, and Tilly, her daughter. Yet, both are able to break out of the cycle, largely through their own strength. The son, David, who faces the most yawning chasm of despair of any of the characters, also climbs out of the hole. But he does not accomplish this on his own. He has help, in the form of a character who is a catalyst for his change, almost a deus ex machina for his salvation. This friend is introduced with allusions to the Godfather, but is really more of a fairy godmother, or perhaps a guardian angel along the lines of Henry Travers's Clarence to Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey. Another catalyst for good, remaining unchanged himself while bringing hope to all the others, is Ben, the younger son, who has Down Syndrome. The purity of Ben's love will not be banished or consumed. He influences all of the other characters, especially his father, Hollis, who eventually remembers a past self and rediscovers why he loved Susan in the first place. Hollis sums up a central theme by asking himself: "What is freedom anyway if not the freedom to start over? Just because you can." The trials of the Johns family play out against a backdrop of middle America at a time of social and moral crisis, not to mention the physical trauma of Katrina that resembles the knocks on the head suffered by so many of the characters. As the individuals struggle to find the True North of character, they mirror "the war over the identity of this country" as a whole. We can only hope that the nation can break free from the cycle of pain and find its own path to redemption. See my separate review of Part One of The Lion Trees.
LillianAK More than 1 year ago
With constant urging from a friend, I finally agreed to take on a sizable piece of fiction entitled ”The Lion Trees”.  She assured me it was even screenplay-worthy and a book we would enjoy discussing. In her words “This is a winner!” SO “The Lion Trees” it was, and what a ride it turned out to be! It almost took over my life as I had trouble putting it down. The novel invites you into the personal lives of four members of the Johns family, each in the midst of his and her own private upheaval. But while these individual narratives are separately told, the author has woven them together beautifully to tell a much larger story. Further, Thomas effectively engages the reader into the character and unfolding life story of each family member while expertly and unsuspectingly tying each back to the unbelievable happenings of the others. Just as I was totally engrossed in the suspense of Hollis Johns, I was thrown into the personal drama going on with Susan, David or Tilly Johns which all contribute powerfully to several common themes that span and bind together the entire book.  The character development in “The Lion Trees” makes each character so alive that you feel you want to rush to the phone and offer a “piece of advice” to keep them from falling into the traps you suspect are just around the corner. “YIKES, DON”T GO THERE”!  As you read, you are totally drawn into this story. And yet, “The Lion Trees” is more than just suspenseful. It has the wonderful humor of David in which you find you laugh out loud as his life story explodes in a chaotic and unpredictably entertaining spiral. It is so relatable and warm, you want to read David’s story twice. I suspect every reader will have a favorite. David was mine. Susan is the one who made me actually stop reading momentarily to think about how she related her life with her family.  Her story is told entirely through dialogue and I found her story to be very compelling with some quite unexpected twists and turns. I still think about her. I believe many women her age will be able to relate to her in one way or another. I feel the author’s character development of Susan was written with just enough depth to fuel the reader’s imagination. The Tilly chapters are told in the first person, retrospectively, as she looks back over decades of an eventful life. She shares the joys and pain of her childhood in Ohio, the sordid saga of her all-too-public experience as a Hollywood starlet, and her reconciliation with her own past as she matures into a fully-realized person.  Each family member’s story is more than a worthwhile reading experience unto itself but since the Johns family is connected in so many memorable ways, these characters are compelling because of how they connect to each other. They are indeed a “family” which is why the reader can so easily relate. “The Lion Trees” soulful, humorous and meaningful and it has some of the best character development I have read in a while. The story is rich, so very rich in its depth.  I actually tried to find something I didn’t like.  I’m sorry but I cannot. When I started I was concerned about the length. This is a big book (two volumes, so make sure you are not purchasing just half the book), but I found myself wishing there was more.  Imagine that?  OK, my friend was absolutely correct in pushing me to the point of frustration to take on “the Lion Trees” Thank you friend! I am now open to discussion as you suggested. This book is a winner!
AvidReader59IK More than 1 year ago
Extraordinary Read - Not Your Ordinary Family Saga The Lion Trees by Owen Thomas is a great new literary fiction piece. Don't let the length of the story scare you off. Take your time. Enjoy every page. Don't rush, don't feel overwhelmed. Sit back, relax and join one dysfunctional family's story. Complex, entertaining, exhilarating, entertaining. The author has done an amazing job at developing his characters. Readers will feel like they are a part of the story. Mr. Thomas has an amazing sense of the old great American novels of the past and has done an excellent job at giving us a Great American novel of the present. As they say, slow and steady wins the race. Take your time with this book, enjoy every word, every sentence, every page. You won't be disappointed. Best Literary Fiction piece of the year!!! Highly Recommended!!!