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Summary: Gripping, suspenseful, magical, and richly atmospheric . . . Ilie Ruby’s haunting debut novel, The Language of Trees, is exhilarating fiction that announces the arrival of a truly extraordinary storyteller.

Echo O’Connell knows that the summer holds its secrets. They are whispered in the rustling trees, in the lush scent of the lilacs, in the flurry of the mayflies batting against the screen door, and in the restless spirits that seem to clamor in the scant breezes on hot evenings. It is in summer that she returns home to Canandaigua, to confront these spirits, both living and not, and to share a secret with her first love, Grant Shongo—a secret that will forever change the lives of many people in the town and put to rest the mysterious disappearance of a little boy more than a decade earlier.

Grant, a descendant of the Seneca Indians who call this place “The Chosen Spot,” has also come back to face his past. After a broken marriage, he has moved into his childhood home, a lake house that has withstood happiness and tragedy. He knows the spirits of the past must be dealt with—that of the little boy who disappeared all those years ago; the boy’s sister, who never overcame the loss; and the love Grant still has for Echo. But before the healing must come the forgiveness. . . . — from Goodreads

I was expecting something altogether different when I picked up The Language of Trees. Something more along the lines of Alice Hoffman where the magic, mystical part of the story was much more overt. That wasn’t the case at all. Now, I love Alice Hoffman and I love the use of magic in her stories. But there was something so lovely about the subtle use of magic Ilie Ruby uses in this story. It really is secondary to the other stories in the book.

The rekindling of the romance between Grant and Echo snagged me from the beginning and I was rooting for them from the start. They’re both wounded and lost and, just like the best of literary characters, neither one of them will tell the other what they’re really thinking or feeling. But isn’t that what we expect from a good romance.

Then there is the mystery: Where the missing Melanie Ellis is and what does it have to do with the disappearance of her brother Luke all those years before ? As Grant helps Melanie’s boyfriend Lion try to find her we find out bits and pieces of what happened the night Luke disappeared and how it’s connected to each of the other characters.

There was a revelation that actually  might not have surprised anyone else but I didn’t see it coming. When I tried to figure out why I didn’t see it coming I realized I was so engrossed in the story I wasn’t really trying to guess what would happen next.

I enjoyed so much about this novel, the main characters were all ones I felt invested in and wanted to find out what happened to them and hoped for the best. The secondary characters were just and well thought out and helped the story feel full. I hope Ilie Ruby has another story in the works, I really do look forward to see what she does next.



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