I’ve mentioned this book several times already, so I figured I might as well go ahead and tell you all about it 🙂
Welcome to St Kitts and Nevis, two beautiful, teeny-tiny islands in the Caribbean! For this country we have: Only God Can Make a Tree by Bertram Roach.
This is a very short book – only 134 pages – but it is jam-packed with action. It follows three generations of white, black, and mixed race men and women, focusing on whom they chose to marry – and whom they chose to love.
A lot of this novel is very sad. You can really see how race and the desire to improve one’s situation in life are pitted against each other time and time again. It’s a story that’s not unlike that of some African American families in the United States who attempted to “pass” as white, due to their light skin.
There is also a lot of alcoholism in this family. That, coupled with the racial and marital tensions throughout the novel, mean one REALLY messed up family about three-quarters of the way through the book. I won’t spoil anything, but MAN. Talk about messed up and sad 😦
I’ve been describing this book to my friends as a non-erotic romance. There is sex, but it is “off-screen,” so to speak. The ending is absolutely stunning, though. It’s one of those scenes that leaves a very clear image stamped into your mind’s eye. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but I will tell you that the title is taken from a poem by Joyce Kilmer, whom I had never heard of until I read this book, but maybe some of you have. He was an American poet killed during World War I. The poem we are specifically talking about here is called simply “Trees”:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
And this, to me, is what makes a fantastic book: when it leads you to more books. It wasn’t until I got to the end of this book that I finally realized what the whole point of the book had been. I thought I knew – I thought it was a story about race and racism and the social barriers we put in place because of those things. And it is about these things, but not in its entirety. They’re not the main point. The main point is something much, much bigger that I can’t share here because it would ruin it and I want you guys to read this book!!!!!
What books have you guys read that have led you to other books? Did these other books have an impact on how you read the original book?