Author: Robin Benway
Genres: Young Adult
Read: Oct. 2017
I don’t give very many books 5 stars. I’ve usually read most of the book before I realize it’s one of those really special books that deserves the extra star, but every now and then you find a book that you know you are going to love right off the bat. That’s what Far From the Tree was like for me.
I thought this book had the strongest start. It tells the story of 3 teenagers that had all been put up for adoption by their birth mom. Joaquin, the eldest, actually lived with his mother for a short period of time, but ended up in the foster care system for his entire life. He’s been in and out of over a dozen homes and has a very low self-worth, believing himself undeserving of any good thing.
Grace and Maya were luckier and we’re adopted by loving families at birth. Maya is the youngest and just a few months after she was adopted, her mom became pregnant with a miracle baby, Lauren. Lauren looks just like her parents and Maya struggles to fit in when she looks so different from the rest of her family. Grace is the middle child and is heartbroken after becoming pregnant at 16 and deciding to give her own baby, who she refers to as Peach, up for adoption.
The novel opens with Grace giving birth and then alternates each chapter from the point of view of each of the siblings. In the beginning, none of the siblings know each other. After giving up her baby, Grace is inspired to search for her own birth mother and discovers the existence of her 2 siblings and reaches out to them. Grace’s first chapter was so incredibly well written and heartbreaking that I immediately knew I was going to love this book. Funny enough, I read Robin Benway’s debut novel, Audrey, Wait! when I was actually a teenager and it was one of my favourite books at the time, but I stopped reading Benway after her second novel, which I found very disappointing. So it was a pleasant surprise to see this book nominated for the National Book Award (which it won) and I decided to re-visit her work.
Honestly, 2 of the first 3 chapters could have been standalone short stories and they still would have been fantastic. Grace and Joaquin were the most moving stories, but Maya still had a really interesting story arc as well. The emotions are just so well written in this book. Even though I’ve never been in the foster system or given up a baby at 16, their pain and heartbreak was so tangible and relatable. Benway tackled a lot of issues in this book and I felt every second of the story was important and meaningful.
To conclude, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing in this story and would highly recommend Far From the Tree to anyone and everyone!