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Review: The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

[ 4 ] September 14, 2012 |

Reviewed by Jenn Leisey

There’s something mysterious about the Keller bloodline: a sort of family magic that’s given the first-born woman in every generation the gift of an extended, almost ageless, life.

As 112-year-old Anna, the matriarch of the five generations of first-born women living together at Hill House, approaches another birthday with determination to be the oldest person alive, she catches the interest of a geneticist who travels across the country to meet the family of “super agers”. Hoping to prove his theory, the geneticist believes Anna’s lineage hold the secrets to curing the aging process in their DNA.

Does the longevity come from genetics, or their lifestyle and diet, or from some sort of mystical powers of the olive grove the Kellers have harvested for over a century? Anna and her descendants aren’t exactly sure. What Anna does know is that digging up secrets that run as deep as the roots could upset the entire family tree.

The Roots of the Olive Tree is a fantastic story about the bonds between mothers and daughters that shape the dynamic of a family. Santo beautifully captures the idea that the things we say to our daughters – and the things we don’t say – impact their lives and generations to come.

The book also focuses on the relationships between each of the Keller women and their lovers. One of the most interesting parts of the novel is the spectrum of emotional situations that are touched upon. From celibate widows, to affairs, new lovers, and even murder, the way the Keller women interact with their significant others is intricately intertwined with the family structure and overarching story line.

Like all good mysteries in life, the novel doesn’t give away all the dirty details, but rather allows the reader to question the potential of supernatural between women, family, and love.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Since graduating from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Professional Writing, Jenn works as a freelance writer, poet, and blogger at south of sheridan. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, and loves baking, crafting, and anything that requires a hot glue gun.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Category: Contemporary, Gift Ideas, Great Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Women's Fiction

Comments (4)

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  1. 4
    Colleen Turner says:

    I love generational stories, especially those dealing with the relationships between mothers and daughters. It is so true that every family has their own secrets and the various relationships between the members, both good and bad, highly affect those experienceing them and how they will interact with the next generation. I am not that interested in the supernatural aspect of the story but, from the review, it doesn’t appear to play a huge part in the story. At least I hope so! Thanks for the review, I will keep this one in mind!

  2. 3

    I think every family has secrets and I have recently found some in my family history including murderer and mental illness. But I’m not sure if the supernatural part of this book would lose me. How much of that is part of the story?
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  3. 2
    Carol Wong says:

    I really enjoyed this relationship centered book. It makes you think how many important secrets must have been kept through the generations. It all made sense. Plus you get to learn a little something about olive grwoing. There are some parallels between olive growing and the lives in the books.

    Carol Wong

  4. 1

    Now this book sounds interesting to me! Right up my alley. I like this kind of book. And for some reason I like the cover.
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