Book Review: Family Tree by Susan Wiggs


FamilyTree
Susan Wiggs has kicked it up another notch with Family Tree.  We’ve all had those key moments when our lives hit the reset button.  Dreams are shattered.  Plans go off the rails.  Our strength of character and integrity are tested, and we know on a soul level that there’s no going back.

Our ability to make margaritas from the lemons that life doles out turns largely on the lessons instilled in us by members of our own family tree.  We rebound better if they have given us a solid foundation.  Ms. Wiggs was blessed with tremendous parents, and she often shares their wisdom in her books.

Lou Klist, Susan Wigg's amazing mother

Lou Klist, Susan Wigg’s amazing mother

It’s time to let go of the person you were.
Try to recognize the new person emerging from this, and
welcome her.
It’s a process.
A grieving process.
– Susan Wiggs, Family Tree

Anastasia Carnaby Rush was a tremendous cook and a loving, nurturing person.  She bequeathed her granddaughter Annie with her recipes for food, love, and life.  Gran believed that every recipe has a key ingredient, and this became the theme for Annie’s college thesis which graduated into a very popular cooking show.

Ms. Wiggs is a foodie, and Family Tree artfully blends life’s challenges, dreams, and plans like a terrific recipe.  Some characters leave home to chase dreams while others keep the home fires burning.  All face competing choices and decisions which test the bonds of love.

Susan Wiggs on her wedding day

Susan Wiggs on her wedding day

Tell me your five favorite films, and
I’ll tell you who you are.
– Susan Wiggs, Family Tree

Annie’s first love is Fletcher Wyndham, the new boy in town and son of a vagabond dreamer.  Their path to happily ever after has a trio of detours, and she marries hunky chef Martin Harlow during one of those detours.  He’s an unfaithful, abusive, narcissistic jerk and the star of the duo’s cooking show, The Key Ingredient:

Gran was fond of saying that a fight was never about the thing being fought over. . .All arguments, at their core, were about power. . .Who would surrender.  Who would prevail. . .

Gran would say. . .remember the love.

FamilyTree Love

Eating was supposed to be a communal activity.
Performed alone, it was merely a body function.
– Susan Wiggs, Family Tree

Meanwhile, Fletcher ~ the hometown boy Annie’s mother Caroline believes has no ambition ~ discovers he has a talent and love for the law.  He goes to Harvard Law and becomes a judge:

Fletcher was one of those judges who read everything. . .he knew from painful personal experience that a person’s day in court might just be the worst day of his life.  The least a judge could do was pay attention.

What a concept, eh?

ReadingTherapy

Be patient with yourself.
Build the life you want.
– Susan Wiggs, Family Tree

On Annie’s worst day, she discovered her husband was cheating on her with his co-star when she went to the set to share the joyful news that she was pregnant.  A malfunctioning scaffold on the set crashed onto Annie a few seconds later.  She lost the baby and went into a year-long coma:

Martin Harlow.  He ought to be strung up by the balls. . .He brought her here from L.A. via medical transport, as if she were a piece of defective merchandise. . .

Martin would surely have a rationale for shipping his comatose wife to Vermont and divorcing her. . .Martin had always been a master of spin. . .Martin was portrayed as a young husband in the prime of life, cruelly robbed of his wife ~ and his future. . .filing for divorce. . .the most difficult thing he’d ever done. . .I need to let her go and leave her in peace.

Ah, that poor, poor man. . .He’s a rat bastard.

Her long path to recovery reunites her divorced parents, and she returns to the family’s farm which produces maple syrup.  Fletcher is back in her life.  Sparks fly.  Oh, my!

FamilyTree Gma

Fletcher was her heart’s home.
– Susan Wiggs, Family Tree

Fletcher has an adorable son Teddy, who is a huge fan of Annie’s show.  After his divorce, Fletcher moved with Teddy into the old home he and Annie loved as teenagers and made all the renovations she had dreamed about.  Teddy is as smitten with Annie as his father, but their path to happily ever after has one final detour.

I’m intentionally not revealing much of the plot.  It is absolutely delicious, and I want you to be able to savor each layer and twist of the most lusciously beautiful story Ms. Wiggs has told so far.  The key ingredient, of course, is love.

Ms. Wiggs, who was a math teacher before she became a best-selling author, always teaches me something I didn’t know:

People with TBI don’t always pick up on social boundaries.  TBI is short for traumatic brain injury.

Figure out how to quit being a target. . .It’s not rocket science. . .Look people in the eye and tell them to knock it off.

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