I received this book for free from Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 13th 2017
Genres: Death & Dying, Legends, Myths, Fables, Paranormal, Social Issues, Social Themes
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“It’s dark magic brings him back.”
Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family—it’s their generations-old land the Burns have “stolen.” But none of that seems to matter after Tori witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard.
Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it’s clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events—including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter’s cousin—that seem to point back to Nathaniel.
As Tori digs for the truth—and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel—she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the centuries-old curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family’s oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried… at any cost.
From award-winning author Elle Cosimano comes a haunting, atmospheric thriller perfect to hand to readers of the Mara Dyer trilogy and Bone Gap.
The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano is pitched as a dark tale of magic, thriller type novel. Tori’s family suddenly inherits a piece of property and a house in a town they’ve never heard of and from a man they’ve never known. They don’t know why they are there but it was the perfect timing for the move. She is clearly an outsider and the family that owns basically the whole town is not happy their property was given to a random unrelated family. The story follows Tori on her quest to discover why they are there and what to do with a dead boy who mysteriously rose from his grave one night.
Now, before I get too much into this, I’m signaling a trigger warning. There are strong images of self-harm and abuse. This wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the synopsis and I feel it’s important to let readers know. This novel is definitely not for younger audiences.
This novel is written from the POV of three different characters. Our main narrator is Tori, but we also get small chapters dedicated to Nathaniel’s past life and those of Emmeline’s, Nathaniel’s confidant and fellow indentured servant. I’ll be honest and say I was confused at the beginning of this book because I didn’t realize what the chapter jumping was doing. Nathaniel works on the Slaughter farm in the late 1600s. It’s a brutal, brutal farm to be on and his memories are graphic of the daily abuse he and his friends suffered through. You want a quick reality check? This is it right here. I definitely feel very fortunate to be living the life I’m living and I feel completely and utterly remorseful for what our nation’s founders did back in those times. Slavery, kidnapping children, beatings, hanging, cutting off of limbs all to farm some land is horrific and I wish that had never happened. I thought Nathaniel had a fantastic voice and you really did feel in the moment with him during the few goods times and the bad. Despite his awful circumstances, he had an aura of hope about him that carried throughout the novel.
So here’s where I get a little picky. I don’t like how Tori’s cutting was dealt with. There were no consequences, there was no feeling of regret, there was no attempt to stop. It’s almost glamorized in a way. It’s convenient to make her have these issues for a small part of the storyline but ultimately I think it was completely unnecessary. I understand teenagers do have these issues and so this does make Tori more realistic. But I don’t agree with the fact that impressionable teenagers could read this and see that doing this is no big deal and hey, it could View Spoiler »reignite a centuries-old curse and bring back the dead « Hide Spoiler. I just think the storyline would still have made sense without this aspect. If this was a book about a struggling teenager who is trying to work through her issues, okay, but that isn’t this book.
The plot was a little slow here and there and the imagery was kind of overwhelming to the point where I couldn’t remember what I had just read, but as the chapters went along the initial kinks worked themselves out. This book is pretty big at 368 pages and honestly, I think it could have been much shorter. It seemed like the storyline dragged a bit and the mystery took a little too long to figure out. They could have solved it earlier, in my opinion. I will say that the last 100 or so pages I read all in one sitting. I was ready to get the show on the road, figure out why Tori was there, what happens to Nathaniel, who was behind some of the strange happenings, etc. So because of this, I’ll give the book an extra half star for keeping my attention late into the wee hours of the night. I don’t think the ultimate reveal of who was behind the cousin’s disappearance and the other events made a whole bunch of sense, though. View Spoiler »The reasoning was to protect the family secrets yet it was someone who was married into the family doing all this. Why do they care so much about the Slaughter family line and the centuries-old history? They’re only related to them by marriage so it’s not even technically their family history. I just figured it would’ve been a direct descendant? « Hide Spoiler
Anyway, I think this book had a lot of potential but fell a little flat for me. I was really intrigued by the mystery of Tori Burns and the town of Chaptico. I love a good mystery filled with thrills and unexpected twists, but I didn’t feel it was really focused on that. It was mainly a story of Nathaniel’s past and in that case, I thought Cosimano did a good job. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. I’m torn on the rating between 2.5 and 3 stars. I think for now I’ll give The Suffering Tree a 3 because I was interested in how it ended despite not being completely invested.
Intriguing concept but was a little too long and not as thrilling as I would have liked. The historical backdrop was written well even though it was saddening. Decent read but had issues I didn’t think needed to be included.