Book Review: The Eve Tree: A Novel by Rachel Devenish Ford

Reading is very subjective, and I’m a self-admittedly harsh critic. I expect just as much or more of the published authors I read as I do from myself, and I’ve found that picking up books in the Kindle free list tends to get me in trouble in that regard. Just because something is given away doesn’t mean it’s worthless, and I have found a couple of titles that really were awesome reads with niche markets. Most of what I’ve gotten has been utter crap, of course. The creme floats, but sometimes so does the shit, after all.

That said, I picked up The Eve Tree by Rachel Devenish Ford on the freebies list. The title of the book is fantastic, imo. I love the imagery it painted in my mind. Unfortunately, that’s by far the best part of the whole thing. The Eve Tree itself is barely mentioned in the book, and the symbolism around it is clumsily drawn.

There was so much potential here. The setting – a rural California ranching county during a dry season with forest fire looming on the horizon – had drama and suspense practically beating down the author’s door, but unfortunately, I felt that she missed the cues. I waited through the entire book, hoping for something redemptive, for some spark of truth, but the ending that could have been a beautiful, poignant moment, felt stamped on out of desperation (the author’s or the character’s, hard to tell). Even the language, typically the end-all-be-all focus of this type of book, left a lot to be desired. The turns of phrase were almost beautiful. The rhythm of the piece was almost melodic.

I think this is the first book I’ve caught in the free Kindle market that struck me as a true casualty to the independent publishing trend. The most heart-breaking thing about this novel was that it could have been so much more. The author is clearly talented, but her inexperience showed, and this book read like something that should have seen a writer’s workshop and a talented editor rather than an ISBN.

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