A REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK
"A wise novel of love and grief, roots and branches, displacement and home, faith and belief. Balm for our bruised times." -David Mitchell, author of Utopia Avenue
A rich, magical new novel on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he's searching for lost love.
Years later a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited--- her only connection to her family's troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.
A moving, beautifully written, and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history, and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak's best work yet.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Set in Cyprus and London between 1974 and the late 2010s, Elif Shafak’s tale of star-crossed lovers is so captivating it feels almost magical at times. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that half of the novel is narrated by an exceptionally wise fig tree. The Island of Missing Trees tells the story of teenage sweethearts Kostas and Defne—he a Greek Christian, she a Turkish Muslim—and their ongoing struggles after leaving a divided postcolonial Cyprus. Shafak’s narrative sparkles with undercurrents of beauty and joy even as it explores themes of family, grief, and trauma. We especially adored the comic relief of Aunt Meryem, with her Marilyn Monroe–themed suitcases and her staunch unwillingness to mind her own business. This book is a profound celebration of love and the many ways that it endures across distance and time.
Booker-shortlisted Shafak (10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World) amazes with this resonant story of the generational trauma of the Cypriot Civil War. Just before Christmas in the late 2010s, 16-year-old Ada Kazantzakis confounds her London classmates by screaming during class. Shortly after, Ada and her botanist father, Kostas, receive a visit from Meryem, an aunt she's never met, the older sister of her dead mother, Defne. Ada feels growing shame about the scream, and is surly toward the free-spirited Meryem, who spouts strange adages such as, "We're not going to search for a calf under an ox." Shafak then jumps back to 1974, when Greek Cypriot Kostas and Turkish Cypriot Defne had assignations in a taverna built around a living fig tree, which narrates part of the book and offers lessons on the human condition via anecdotes about insects and birds. Kostas's mother, meanwhile, prompted by her disapproval of the courtship and worried over growing violence, sends him to London. Defne and Kostas are later reacquainted in the early 2000s on Cyprus, where she works searching for bodies of the disappeared. The reunion uncovers delicate secrets while expertly giving a sense of the civil war's lingering damage, and by the end Ada's story reaches an unexpected and satisfying destination. Shafak's fans are in for a treat, and those new to her will be eager to discover her earlier work. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown Literary.