The Private Lives of Trees – Alejandro Zamba

IMG_0878.JPGSummary (Amazon): Each night, Julián has been improvising a story about trees for his stepdaughter, but tonight something is different. As Julián becomes increasingly concerned that his wife won’t return, he imagines what Daniela—at twenty, at thirty years old, without a mother—will think of his novel.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: layers

I picked up this book on a whim when I was at Marfa Book Company. It’s a thin book–98 pages–and I was expecting it to be unusual. However, I didn’t expect it to be what it was. It is a story within a story. The author, Zamba, writes a story about a man who tells a story about trees. In the story, that main character, Julian, is writing a book about trees. Julian spends every evening telling his step-daughter an ongoing story about trees, and every Sunday, he works on a book about a man tending his bonsai (so it’s really about Julian because he has a bonsai). Confused yet?

This night however, that he is telling Daniela her nightly story, his wife is late. As time grows later and later, Julian’s mind begins to wander. He remembers the story of how they met. He remembers the previous woman he was dating. His mind drifts to what may have made Veronica late. It’s basically a chain of consciousness–where Julian’s mind goes while he is anxiously awaiting his wife’s return.

As the night turns into morning, he begins to think of having to take care of Daniela all alone–what she will be like at age 15, age 30. Who her boyfriend will be and what she will do for a living. How eventually she will read Julian’s book about the bonsai.

And then at the very end of the book, there is a small second chapter of about 4 pages. It’s the following morning. Veronica has not returned. Julian walks Daniela to school and is told by one of the teachers that there is to be a parent teacher conference. Julian tells Daniela that they need to study more, and then she goes to class.

The End.

Review: 3 stars.

Despite thinking that this book would be about something else, I still wanted to like it. And I did to an extent. I liked the idea of it. It was very imaginative, and some of the emotion in the day dreams was good. Especially when Julian was wavering back and forth as to whether he deserved for Veronica to not return. But to end it in the way that it did. It was just so meh. I didn’t need full closure, but it seems a bit silly that someone would be so blasé about your wife not returning and that you have to take care of her child.


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Filed under 3 stars, Book Review

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