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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Review #181- The Old Arbutus Tree- Leigh Matthews


Summary: Stuck in a small town in Alberta, Rose misses her father and watches in horror as a local widower wins over both her mother and sister. She finds solace in a fellow nerd, Jason, but when her sister, Sara, is violently assaulted Rose must decide whether to stick to the town's story or find the strength to help a friend.

Exploring the vulnerability of difference in a closed community, The Old Arbutus Tree is a story of discovery, empathy and learning how and who to trust. It lays bare the common confusion of adolescent sexual identity and the devastating effects of a small town's prejudice. When power, privilege and access conspire against justice, Rose and Jason are forced to see how desire is policed by our peers, our town, and the wider judicial and medical establishments. Can they help each other recognise real love, in whatever form it comes, and give themselves permission to accept it?

Detailing the events leading up to an unknown gunman opening fire in the town of Pitcher Creek, The Old Arbutus Tree forces us to consider how violence begets violence and how we can break free of this cycle. Is sexual difference really something to fear? How did government-sanctioned institutions in 1980s Canada fail young men as they discovered love for the first time, with each other? Does tragedy need to hit a whole community, not just a single family, before someone speaks up for those without a voice?
Title: The Old Arbutus Tree
Author: Leigh Matthews
Pages: 188
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Review: I received this book from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.
This might sounds bad, but I only entered to win this book because it takes place in Alberta where I am from. I did really enjoy this story, it's about love, loss and everything in between. I also liked that it dealt with darker issues. You don't get too many books that deal with death, rape and suicide all wrapped into one read, but this one had them all and I loved it. I like how the author kind of gave hints as to what would be happening next without coming right out and telling you. I also enjoyed the different POV's and the journal entires.
I love how easy it was to connect to the main character Rose. She had always lived in her "perfect", older sisters shadow. I didn't like how they were just over a year apart but Rose was treated like a baby regardless. I also found her to be a bit naive and a coward. If I had been in her shoes I would have made sure the right person had been punished for the said crimes. I was very disappointed in Sara, Rose's sister for not telling the truth and letting the charade go on as long as it had. I also felt bad for poor Jason, he didn't deserve that but at least he met someone. 
What I really need to know is if there is a book two. I feel like the book was left off to go either way, to be a standalone or merge into a series. I look forward to more books by Leigh Matthews. I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy contemporaries on the darker side.


About this author

Leigh Matthews is a British-born writer now living in Vancouver, BC, with a sharp-eyed border collie who is both her biggest fan and harshest critic. She has previously published poetry and short prose in Aesthetica, Point Shirley, New Work from the Writing Squad, and eSheaf and she supports her tea-drinking habit as afreelance medical copywriter. Leigh attends queer literary events in the city whenever she can and greatly admires those in possession of the courage to shout out their poetry to the world. Her first novel, The Old Arbutus Tree, will be published in July 2013.

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