by Susan wiggs
Often, the most poignant journey is coming home, and no one else can evoke all the uncertainty and joys of those life passages quite like Susan Wiggs. FAMILY TREE starts with a little over the top drama: Annie Rush is the creator and producer of one of America’s most successful TV cooking shows. Her life seems perfect: her husband is her leading man, their ratings are through the roof…and she’s just found out she’s pregnant. As she runs from an interview with one of the nation’s biggest weekly magazines to the set to tell her husband the happy news, everything changes in an instant. She walks in on him in a compromising position with the female star of the show. As she backs away, stunned, a set fixture topples on her, sending Annie into a coma…which lasts for a year.
When Annie wakes up, it’s to find herself in her hometown of Switchback, Vermont: Martin airlifted her there with proxy divorce papers after the accident. She retreats to her family home on Switchback’s maple farm, helping tend the generations-old maple farm and running into her former high school flame. Enveloped in the sugar-spun warmth of her mother, free-spirited brother, nieces and nephews, Annie starts to cook up a new life for herself, with the help of a discovery of a maple cookbook written by her grandmother many years past. FAMILY TREE is the story of Annie’s triumph over betrayal, coming to terms with the past to mix up a clear-eyed future. And, just as the author is in her own kitchen, the book is clear-eyed, big-hearted, funny and wise.
I have to be honest on a couple of things. First, I’m not a huge fan of authors having flashbacks in their story – I don’t normally like that back and forth between what’s happening now and what happened before without having an idea of where things are going. A lot of time I feel like it is just a way to try to create suspense when a more linear track can’t and in a poor writer’s hands I feel like the blanks are there to add length to the book. Good thing for me Wiggs is not a poor writer. Even though we jump back and forth she keeps the stories intertwined well and we got an idea of where things were going, we were just waiting to get there. Still not my favorite thing but more palatable when done well like it is here.
The other thing I had a problem with was how Annie and Fletcher keep making the same mistakes over and over again, both in the present and the past. I would have thought that at some point they would have figured things out but apparently not and I really wanted to smack them by the time we reached the end of the book. Luckily they figure things out (because this is a HEA kind of story) so I was able to control my more violent urges 🙂
Overall, I was kinda surprised at how this book went – I think that the blurb isn’t really a good indication of the story you get. Because of that I didn’t have a good idea of what to expect but Annie is recovering in the hospital for a good portion of it (I’m a little fuzzy on the exact time frame through the whole book) and for the rest she is spent trying to figure out how to get her feet under her again. And of course those flashbacks to her history in Switchback and with Fletcher, which you know going in doesn’t end happily.
While it’s not easy for Annie to figure out where she goes from here, as you can imagine (which is par for the course with Wiggs), her struggle is heartfelt and touching. There is sadness that you know is coming, but there are also high points to off set them – not a carefree read but rewarding.