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4.3 out of 5 stars144
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a stunning book of great depth and tenderness. A family move across the USA hoping to build a new existence, but the son is shot dead in his own home. Soon after the killer is arrested, but spends many years on death row. Mother, father and sister are distressed, angry, and look forward to the day he dies, when justice can be seen to be done and revenge taken.
The years that elapse between sentencing and the planned execution take a heavy toll on the family, and each deals with it in different ways. As the years go by the feelings within each family member shift bit by bit, as do the relationships between them.
In a nutshell, that's about it then, with the odd surprising revelation along the way. If you're looking for a book packed with action, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a book with a variety of interesting characters who have depth and complexity, and who develop in an entirely convincing way then this is the right book for you.
Though there is much anger, frustration and loss recounted in the pages, there's also a haunting beauty. It asks penetrating questions about the nature of rules, of acceptance and authority, and what gives our life purpose.
Whilst struggling with difficult and weighty matters, the delightful prose remains delicate. Nowhere has the author allowed things to get bogged down, and a few carefully crafted images are often left to do the work other authors would require pages of description to accomplish. A novel that is thoughtful, literary and readable all at the same time.
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on 3 May 2011
I actually purchased this book on a whim and I'm really happy that I did. It was almost Picoult-esque in its gritty subject matter, yet similarly had echoes of a book I read a couple of years ago by Amanda Eyre-Ward, also focusing on the same setting and was also a little bit reminiscent of some happenings in The Green Mile too. This is actually an incredibly well written novel on a tough subject matter, with strongly drawn characters and emotions that really kept me turning the pages.

A brief summary: teenager Shep was only fifteen years old when he was shot and killed during an apparent robbery at his family's home. Nineteen year old Daniel Robbins was charged with the brutal murder and languished on Oregon's death row - whilst Shep's family were left behind to pick up the pieces. His mother Irene especially has a hard time coming to terms with her son's death and facing up to being left behind and so begins her inner search; are her religious beliefs strong enough to overcome her hatred for her son's killer? Nineteen years later she might have her answers as the date of Robbin's execution is on the horizon...

As I've said, this is a well-written novel on a difficult subject. The only thing I have to say that irked me about this novel was the constant references to Christianity and the power of prayer, but being an atheist that is a matter of personal preference, and it wasn't heavy enough to put me off the book. Forgiveness and compassion is a strong underlying thread in the book and is handled very successfully.

I will also say though that there was some indication at the beginning of the book that things *quite* weren't what they appeared from some happenings that were vaguely alluded to, so to some degree this book was a little bit predictable. I worked out quite quickly what was going on and what had happened around the events in question and that matters didn't fully add up, but nevertheless, that didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book in any way, shape or form, but I did feel it warranted the deduction of a star from my rating.

From the title, you obviously realise this story won't exactly be a laugh a minute as well, but despite the somewhat predictability of the plot I was still genuinely surprised by how upset I got towards the end of this novel and how angered I was by some characters actions- the signs of a well written novel.

I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this book to others- it's a very strong, worthwhile read.
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on 28 February 2011
There's a saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."
There's not a lot of laughing in this book, but given that Nate Stanley's aim in heading from Illinois to Oregon is to sort out what he sees as a problem likely to divide his family, it's difficult to see how it could have gone more catastrophically wrong. A murder, a legal case which drags on for nearly two decades, and the remnants of a family unable to communicate with each other.
In a way, all the characters in the story are derailed from what they might have expected of life, and the interest of the narrative is in how (or whether) they manage to make something of what's left.
Nate appears least likely, since he's obsessed with the events which led to his son's death, unable to move on. His daughter Bliss sets herself single-mindedly to becoming a state prosecutor, determined that no one should ever get away with what her brother's killer seems to have done. Her mother, Irene, is brought lowest, before she picks herself up and sets out on what forms the main part of the story, although even that leads to a further derailment when the truth about her son's murder finally comes to light.
Outside the family, we have the convicted killer, Daniel Robbin, who has of course been thrown farthest off course by the events of one afternoon. He's no innocent, as he admits himself, and he doesn't make any excuses. Eventually, though, he takes charge of his fate in the only way that is really open to him.
Then, too, the superintendent of the prison, Tab Mason, responsible for arranging an execution when there hasn't been one in the state for years, so all the horrifying details of the 'procedure'have to be worked out from the ground up. His own background is gradually made clear, with a sadistic psychopath of a brother and a mother who took his brother's side rather than his. Now divorced and seeing his child once every couple of years, the question is whether he will be dragged down by the responsibility on his shoulders.
At first, I thought it was going to be a so-so story along the lines of 'murder is dreadful, but so is capital punishment, no one is beyond redemption' or something, but Naseem Rakha doesn't take that straightforward path. There's nothing easy about the story, or the decisions any of the characters have to make. Even at the end it's not clear whether there will be any redemption. A truly happy ending is probably out of the question, but there's the possibility that most of the characters will have some sort of future to look forward to.
Reading the above, I realise it must sound like a story of unadulterated misery, but that's not what I came away with, and so I think there must be the hope of something in the future, once the long story of the killing and its aftermath is over - if it ever can be, that is.
It's not for a dismal story that I find myself holdng back from five stars, rather that some of the key characters don't quite convince. Bliss should be more important, but we don't get much of a feeling for her as an individual - she sets off on her own path and follows it unswervingly. Personal life? We're not told of any, and she comes across as lacking a dimension.
More seriously, her mother's decision to leave her sorrow behind and embrace forgiveness is the turning point of the book, but it doesn't quite work - there isn't any apparent trigger that turns her from being literally suicidal into a philosophical character who firmly takes control of her life again and gives it purpose.
All in all, though, an excellent read, and one that does what all the good novels do by making you put yourself in the position of several people, and imagine what you would do in their situation. Though I sincerely hope it will never come to that.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 January 2012
I bought this book based on the reviews on here and I can't say I am sorry that I did but neither can I say it completely gripped me. For me it was one of those reads that you vaguely enjoy on some level but it doesnt make you want to add the author to your list of must buy's.
The subject matter is emotive - the loss of a child is a terrible thing and the writer has done well in pulling you in to the family grief. However, I think my personal problem was that I didnt find the characters that likeable to begin with - the only one I really felt any empathy for was Bliss, the daughter left behind as the sole child of the family. HER grief and eventual need to move past it resonated with me. That character is the reason I give the book 3 stars and not 2.
Certainly I can understand why it has so many rave reviews - some people are going to "feel" this story more than others, it just didnt quite get there for me.
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on 21 November 2010
This is the first time I have reviewed a book but I felt compelled to encourage others to read this. I thought it was beautifully written, moving and suspenseful. I enjoyed it so much I could hardly put it down but at the same time didn't want it to end. I loved it.
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on 4 January 2011
I just finished reading the crying tree and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The author explores a womans struggle when her 15 year old son is killed, and as her family unit implodes around her and she sinks into a deep depression, Sheps mother makes a choice to stop hating her sons killer and in time discovers the redemptive powers of forgiveness. So much fiction that I read is shaped by the constraints of justice and remaining faithful to the notion that bad characters must meet their come uppance in the course of the novel. Rakha refused to inhibit her storyline with such strong moral codes, her lack of commitment to a definitive kind of justice seems infinitely more real, and I found this to be quite refreshing. furthermore, all her characters were just beautifully crafted and extremely memorable. The novel challenged my perception of justice and made me realise that whilst love is an enigma, hate is just a decision. Thought provoking and poignant, I'll be looking out for more of Rakhas work.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Nate and Irene Stanley, and their children Shep and Bliss, live happily in Illinois, in the house that has been in Irene's family for generations, until one day, out of the blue, Nate comes home and tells his family that he is taking a new job in Blaine, Oregon. None of the family want to move but Nate is insistent that it is for the best. The family move and make the necessary adjustments, but one day Irene is called home from work to find her son Shep has been shot and killed by Daniel Robbin, a loner with a background of being in and out of foster homes.

The book then focuses mostly on Irene's despair over the years that follow, as she tries to come to terms with the loss of her son. Naseem Rakha manages this very well and you really do get a sense of how Irene must have been feeling.

One day she reaches a point where she either cannot go on any longer, or she must forgive Daniel for his crime. There follows a period of nine years, whilst Daniel is on death row, where he and Irene write to each other, until Daniel's execution is finally arranged and then Irene's secret is revealed. However, it turns out that Nate has his own secrets about what happened when his son died.

This is an excellent read, and one which I would recommend. It's a fairly gentle sort of story, given the subject matter, as it deals with a family's grief rather than anger. It brought tears to my eyes in the last few chapters as the secrets surrounding Shep's death are revealed and Daniel's execution grows ever closer. This is a book that shows the power of forgiveness and shows that things are never as clear-cut as they seem.
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on 30 January 2011
This book is fantastic! It takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and you find yourself really empathising with the characters, even the ones in the wrong!!
I couldn't put it down and found myself sneaking off to read a few pages whenever I got the chance!
Definately recommended read!
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on 13 July 2011
I read this book because of the blurb on the back. I wanted to know how a mother could forgive the man who murdered her son. And this book explores exactly how Irene gets to that place in an insightful and thought provoking way. The characters are well written and believable and the novel grips you right from the start. The only bit that did not work so well for me was Irene and Nate's relationship after the murder, and that is because you do not really get inside Nate's head until the end of the novel. But apart from that, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.
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on 8 July 2011
What a wonderfully dramatic,emotional and beautifully written story. this is a superb debut novel and i am looking forward to the next one.the subject matter could have been over sentimental but the balance was spot on due to the wonderful characterisations.
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