Book Review: The Dead Tree

The Dead Tree by Lori L. Clark: The town of Steele Grove, Missouri sits high along the bluffs of the Mississippi River. Legends run rampant around town about crazy Blythe Fountain, the teen who discovered her beau hanging from the oak tree in the family's front yard. A short time later, two of her friends mysteriously vanished, never to be seen, or heard from again.

Eighty years later, Ariel Fountain has inherited the property, and after catching her boyfriend cheating on her, decides she needs a change of scenery and runs headlong to a place shrouded in superstition and family mysteries which may be better off left unsolved.

Ariel sets out with the help of a local man, Grady, to uncover the truth behind the hanging and the girls' disappearances. What Ariel discovers is a secret so horrific she wishes she would have left it buried.

**The Dead Tree generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.**

The Dead Tree explores the intimacies and many facets of love with a mysterious journey and intriguing characters. To me, no grand love story takes place between two main characters. Rather, the reader experiences love through different relationships throughout the book: siblings, friends, family, young lovers. We experience both the triumphs and the costs through these relationships. It’s an interesting look into the many ways one person’s story can evolve through the actions and the love of others. Lori Clarke wove this concept concisely through her prose. With a flair for secrecy and interesting flashbacks, the prose engages from the very beginning of the book until we finally discover the truths at the end.

The main character here, Ariel Fountain, embarks on her own journey set in motion by the death of her reclusive Great Aunt Blythe. Scorned by her long-time lover and friends, she sets out determined to resolve the mystery of the inheritance left by Blythe including the dead tree in the yard in which the many legends surrounding it consume the townspeople.

Ariel’s character engages the reader fully with her wit and unique charm. She’s different in a “tom boy” kind of way, not shy but not overtly charismatic or out going. Her closest confidants become Bylthe’s housekeeper and Grady, the hot landscaper called upon to remove the mysterious dead tree. During her search, she is left the diaries of her Great Aunt Blythe. Each diary entry takes us back in time to explore the relationship that took place between Blythe and her true love. Each entry mixed with the interactions between Ariel and Grady providing more clues into the mystery. We hear from diverse point of views: both Ariel and Grady’s and also Blythe Fountains. I related hearing from Blythe through her journal entries to watching The Notebook. We get to experience an old love through the eyes of a teenager living in simpler times. This POV enhances our reading pleasure, making the mysterious events of the tree somewhat clearer. Grady’s POV provides us with some the traditional angst. His position towards Ariel has been complicated by the work he’s doing for her. But with day, she intrigues him more and he too becomes invested in the story surrounding the tree.

While I did have an idea of what the mystery of the tree is, the author took a couple of turns that I never saw coming. As I stated earlier, if you’re looking for a grand love story I don’t think this is the book for you. But for a good mystery with intriguing characters and a plot that wraps itself around the idea of the many forms of love stemming from the journey of one person, The Dead Tree will work for you. It’s a mysterious adventure story that leaves you guessing throughout but ultimately satisfying the reader in with its conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed this story as it’s different than anything I’ve been reading recently, it held my attention throughout exciting me to discover the secrets Ariel uncovers.

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Lori L. Clark

She Reads New Adult Admin: Lori L. Clark

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