I read The Language of Trees not long after it was first published this past summer. The massive review in the local paper promised it would be a good read, and it did seem to be right along the lines of something I would normally pick off the shelf.
I came to learn rather quickly that Ilie Ruby has a wonderful way of carrying you through a story, pulling you deeper and deeper and then when you least expect it, WHAM, she hits you with an emotional truth that is so deep and profound that it sends you sprawling, gasping for something to hang onto. This happened to me in the process of reading this book. I would go from a relaxed reading position, to sitting straight up, to leaning on the edge of my seat, to standing, to pacing, to talking to myself and holding my forehead, wondering how she could possibly know such detailed things about ME. It was unnerving and fascinating in a way that only a magnificently written novel can be.
There was a movie in the 80’s called The Neverending Story, about a little boy who steals a book from an old bookshop and has the sense as he hides away in an old attic reading by candlelight that the people in the book are aware of him. The old book-keeper had warned him that this book wasn’t safe for him to read, it wasn’t like other books, because the old man knew that those who delved into the pages of that book became part of the story. There was a point as the boy was reading that the characters talk about him as if he is there with him. They say they were there with him as he entered the bookstore and took the book with the oren symbol on the cover and they are with him as he reads the book.
“But that’s impossible, it’s not real,” he says to himself, looking up from the book disturbed and confused, “they can’t be talking about me, it’s just a story.” But it wasn’t just a story. It was a book that forced the little boy to confront fears, to take a good long hard look at himself, and ultimately gave him courage and power.
I found myself thinking and feeling the same thing as I read The Language of Trees and its characters continued to speak to me. “How,” I asked myself out loud, looking at the book as if could look back at me, “how does she know these things about me?” “It’s not real, it’s just a story.” But as it wasn’t just a story in the movie, it wasn’t just a story for me. It forced me to confront fears, to look deeply into myself, and when it was over, I had found courage, comfort and healing.
A book filled with forgiveness and the hope of second chances and healing, it’s a compilation of love stories, old ones and new ones, reborn ones and healing ones. It’s about Grant Shongo and Echo O’Connell and whether or not they can heal and find the love they lost all those years ago. It’s a ghost story about little Luke Ellis who was lost in the waters of Canandaigua Lake many years before, and who now haunts the people on the lake out of love for his sister Melanie who has recently vanished without a trace. It’s a book full of secrets, secrets kept by Clarisse Mellon who knows the truth needs to come out or Melanie Ellis will never be found and things will never be right.
It’s a book about facing fears and finding yourself and allowing yourself to reach out a lonely hand, trusting someone else in the process. As Clarisse Mellon says, “A full life, a life where she captures her heart’s desire, requires that chances be taken.”
This book is full of hope, and in a day where people seem to lose their hopes and forget their dreams, this book is a welcome respite, a place where the desires of the heart are encouraged to fly. Read this book, allow it to take you on its journey, find the truths in its pages and open yourself up to the infinite possibilities it offers.
“You must go alone,” the movie says of the journey, if you’re willing to take it. “You must leave all your weapons behind. It will be very dangerous.” It’s true, looking inside ones self with no walls and no weapons can be very dangerous, for those willing to make the journey. It took me many years to find that “Neverending Story” experience and it changed my life. The Language of Trees changed my life.
“Show no fear, for it may fade away, in your hands, the birth of a new day.” No, it’s definitely not just a story.
The Language of Trees: A Novel by Ilie Ruby has been published by Avon ($14.99).