Monday, October 27, 2014

The Lion Trees by Owen Thomas Part One: Unraveling



I've been an avid reader for well over thirty five years.  I've been a reviewer for over a dozen.  I've been bombarded by today's cookie cutter story assembly and I despise it.  There are times when I just don't think I can take another pre-fab book.  Then, someone like Owen Thomas comes along and reminds me what the book world CAN offer, what a story CAN be.  It reminds me of the reason I fell in love with reading in the first place and what a magical world the art of storytelling is.

I'll admit, this book is intimidating.  The first book is over 800 pages.  It's massive.  Book two appears to be about the same length.  Given the size of the books alone, you expect  them to be dry and filled with all sorts of nonsensical and superfluous information.  You expect chapters of lifeless stage settings and dull noticings of the author.  You expect to pick up the book and have them give you every detail down to the crack in the floor that has nothing to do with anything.  What I found instead is a mesmerizing tale.  Thomas lets the scene set itself and only gives you the necessary information.  You're allowed to fill all the colorful gaps in yourself and actually use your mind.  Instead of finding a dull, brittle book filled with annoying redirection from the story, I found myself immersed in a world that ended all too quickly.

We find the story beginning with Tilly Johns, a famous actress.  But the story isn't really about her.  Not really.  Each chapter is told from the perspective of either her or one of her family members.  There is Tilly, her brother David and her parents.  Then there's Ben.  Ben is the baby of the family and a Downs Syndrome child.  Each of the people in this family unit are struggling with their own identities and reasons for being.  Each has been cast in a role and they struggle with not only where they are and who they are, but whether they intend to stay in that role.  If not, is escape possible?

This book is definitely not for the light reader or the non-thinker.  It's the best book I've read  this year, which is saying something considering I had a brand spanking new Maguire in my hands this year.  However, if I were going to write a book myself, I would want it to be something that changed the world of the person holding it, and this book does that exceedingly well.  While traveling through the individual lives of each family member, you'll find yourself questioning your own life and finding new truths that you didn't even know existed.  But it's not all about that either.  You'll also be entertained and lost in the world of the Johns family.  You'll find yourself anxious to know where the story is leading and what sort of exciting journey you're being led on in order to get there.  That's not even to mention the surprising use of the English language that Thomas has mastered.  Don't get me wrong, editing could have been a little more smooth, but the way that he composes words alone will find you lost in the beauty of Thomas' world.

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