Book review: Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

2 Aug

family treeAnnie Rush seems to have it all, a handsome husband and their fabulous life in Manhattan. But all of that is snatched away when she is involved is a life-changing accident. Awakening from a coma a year later, Annie finds that the life she knew has crumbled away.

In the throes of grief, Annie grasps her new reality – she has to start over from scratch, which means heading home. Annie couldn’t wait to escape the small town where she grew up, but now she finds herself warming to the close-knit community and its homespun values.

There’s also a face from the distant past − Fletcher Wyndham − and all the reasons she’s never quite forgotten him come flooding back. Annie expects to pull herself together and return to the city, but fate has other plans …

A few years ago I started reading Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles series and really enjoyed it so when the chance to review her new novel came up I couldn’t resist. Family Tree is such a lovely an addictive story; I couldn’t put it down once I started reading and I know it will be one of my favourite books of the year. I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to read many more from Susan’s extensive back catalogue as soon as possible!

FamilyTree is the story of Annie Rush. As we meet her she’s a very successful cooking show producer, working with her husband on a hit show The Key Ingredient. I was drawn to Annie as a character straight away; she’s bright, intelligent and successful. She came across as a happy person – the type of woman I’d like to have as a friend and I thought Susan told her initial back story in a very clever way. I was already gripped by the story but as Annie makes a series of discoveries and then falls victim to a shocking accident, I was completely hooked. Tantalisingly, the story flashes back to Annie’s past at this point and left me desperate to know what had happened to her!

The book is broken into sections set ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ and this makes the story a real page turner as Susan leaves each narrative on a cliff-hanger more than once to switch to the past or present. I often find in dual time narratives that I have a preference for one part or the other but in this story I was just as involved with and wanted to know what happened next with both parts of the story. As the picture of Annie’s teenage years and home and school life in Switchback, Vermont built, it all added up to make me feel like I knew her in depth.

Ironically, as Annie begins to recover from her accident, the reader is in a position to know more about her past than she does and this was a very intriguing premise to the book. And then there’s the wonderful romance angle to the story. From her past books I remembered that this is something Susan does well but the feeling and emotions in Family Tree really got me!

Susan captures the excitement of first love just perfectly and the story of Annie and Fletcher is so bittersweet as life and choices get in the way. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Annie as she returned to Switchback to recover at her family home. As well as the romance aspect of the story Wiggs creates a wonderful feeling of family and Annie’s relationship with her beloved Gran is magical, again making this feel like a very well rounded novel.

There are two other themes that deserve mention; food and locations. Annie’s home town is just picture perfect. In fact I could easily see this book as a movie. The food descriptions are mouth-wateringly delicious and it’s clear that Susan did her research on cooking, TV production and maple syrup farming for this book. I also liked the way that she drew in very current aspects like social media whilst giving the story a timeless romantic feeling.

Family Tree considers the conundrum of doing what you love versus being with the person you love and I thoroughly enjoyed following the ups and downs of Annie’s and her family’s lives. This is a story that will leave you with a wonderful warm glow and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5/5

Family Tree is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

 

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