The Suffering Tree tells the story of Tori, whose family has just moved from Washington, D.C. to the sleepy town of Chaptico, Maryland after her mother inherits a house and plot of land from a mysterious stranger. The inheritance comes as the cost of the Slaughter family, who have a long and complicated history with the town. Then Tori accidentally, possibly raises Nathaniel Bishop from the dead, a Slaughter boy goes missing, and a centuries-old curse looms over the town. Tori must wade through the truth that the Slaughter family wants to keep hidden before it’s too late to save Nathaniel and the town.
This novel had a lot of potential. I wanted to like it. There’s a backdrop of town history and family secrets, a promising cast of characters, a colonial witch hunt, and a generally interesting premise. And yet it still doesn’t quite work.
The book doesn’t take the time to build up to the story. There’s little character development and multiple plot holes. Tori raises a boy from the dead, quickly accepts that and then there’s romantic tension between them, just like that. If a human crawled out of the grave, my first instinct would not be to kiss him. It’s like the novel had all of the right pieces and just didn’t know how to fit them together.
Additionally, the portrayal of self-harm seems to be really problematic. Mental health issues and self-harm is something that should totally be shown as something that people experience, but the novel seems to romanticize it. I’m wary of that kind of representation.
Most of the characters ended up feeling like caricatures, the flashbacks seemed disorganized, and I think the novel would have definitely been better with a first-person point-of-view. Overall, the novel is a clever idea that doesn’t get fully realized.
Thanks to Hyperion, who gave me an advanced copy in return for an honest review.
Release Date: June 13, 2017