Title: The Roots of the Olive Tree
Author: Courtney Miller Santo
Genre/Audience: Literary fiction, adult
Publication: William Morrow, 2012
Source: For review, TLC Book Tours
Summary: Five generations of first-born women live together on a prosperous olive grove called Hill House. Anna, the oldest, at 112, wishes to become the oldest person in the world. Next in line is her seemingly tough as nails daughter, Bets, followed by granddaughter, Callie, who suffered a traumatic injury and runs the Pit Stop restaurant and shop. Great-granddaughter Deb was incarcerated 20 years earlier for killing her husband, and great-great granddaughter, Erin, the youngest, at 24, has just come home pregnant and feeling alone since her mother is imprisoned. A researcher has heard of the incredible longevity of the Keller women, and their slow aging process. He believes that by conducting a study on them, he can uncover a way to slow down aging. Despite their incredible story, the women are more concerned about keeping their longheld secrets, and maintaining order in the family while Deb is up for parole which causes anguish and hard feelings among the women who have often struggled to get along.
My Thoughts: When I first started reading this book, I was apprehensive. It seemed a bit slow to start, but soon enough, I was pulled into the story and I’m very glad I stuck with it. The writing is very vivid and descriptive, both with the setting and the emotions and feelings, and though I don’t like olives, the descriptions made me crave them! Though there were five main characters, I really felt a sense of knowing all of them. I was nervous when I saw that the story was equally about all five of the women. I thought I would struggle to keep them straight, but that was not the case at all. The author brings them all to life. Usually when I’m reading a book and there are a lot of main characters, I grow frustrated and confused, but with the five Keller women, I got to know – and love (sometimes!) – all of them and their quirks. This is definitely the kind of book where you miss the characters after you turn the last page. I particularly liked Anna, the matriarch of the family who was still full of life and keen on everything around her despite her incredible age. Their relationships were also realistic, full of conflict and love, tension and forgiveness. In addition to the excellent characterization, I enjoyed the sense of mystery surrounding the women’s aging and longevity. I was curious to know the results of the study a doctor was performing on them. Did they have a secret that kept them living longer than most? A beautifully written story of a unique family of women, I’d strongly recommend this for fans of literary fiction and character driven stories.
My Rating: 4/5