They come for the trees. It is 2038. As the rest of humanity struggles through the environmental collapse known as the Great Withering, scientist Jake Greenwood is working as an overqualified tour guide on Greenwood Island, a remote oasis of thousand-year-old trees. Jake had thought the island's connection to her family name just a coincidence, until someone from her past reappears with a book that might give her the family history she's long craved.
From here, we gradually move backwards in time to the years before the First World War, encountering along the way the men and women who came before Jake: an injured carpenter facing the possibility of his own death, an eco-warrior trying to atone for the sins of her father's rapacious timber empire, a blind tycoon with a secret he will pay a terrible price to protect and a Depression-era drifter who saves an abandoned infant from certain death, only to find himself the subject of a country-wide manhunt. At the very centre of the book is a tragedy that will bind the fates of two boys together, setting in motion events whose reverberations we see unfold over generations, as the novel moves forward into the future once more.
A magnificent novel of inheritance, sacrifice, nature and love that takes its structure from the nested growth rings of a tree, Greenwood spans generations to tell the story of a family living and dying in the shadows cast by its own secrets. With this breathtaking feat of storytelling, Michael Christie masterfully reveals the tangled knot of lies, omissions and half-truths that exists at the root of every family's origin story. (From McClelland & Stewart)
Greenwood is on the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.
Christie is a novelist based on Galiano Island, B.C. His most recent novel If I Fall, If I Die won the Northern Lit Award and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
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"I was thinking of the idea of a bloodline and wanted to complicate the idea of a family tree. The whole book is an extended metaphor of a family tree.
"Genealogy isn't a simple story. In my own personal life and experience, families are built much more than they are born. Looking back into your ancestors, all those people have a name and story of their own. There are so many stories to be told in family history. So the narrative in the book is structured in that way.
Genealogy isn't a simple story. In my own personal life and experience, families are built much more than they are born.- Michael Christie
"I did a lot of reading about the Great Depression in Canada and the Canadian timber and farming industries. I also looked at the early days of the environmental conservation movement, particularly in British Columbia. I looked at a wide array of books to build this big world.
"I was thinking more cinematically than ever before in writing this book. I didn't write it as a screenplay but I was certainly aware of moving the story in a cinematic way."
From the book
They come for the trees.
To smell their needles. To caress their bark. To be regenerated in the humbling loom of their shadows. To stand mutely in their leafy churches and pray to their thousand-year-old souls.
From the world's dust-choked cities they venture to this exclusive arboreal resort — a remote forested island off the Pacific Rim of British Columbia — to be transformed, renewed and reconnected. To be reminded that the Earth's once-thundering green heart has not flatlined, that the soul of all living things has not come to dust and that isn't too late and that all is not lost. They come here to the Greenwood Arboreal Cathedral to ingest this outrageous lie, and it's Jake Greenwood's job as Forest Guide to spoon-feed it to them.
From Greenwood by Michael Christie ©2019. Published by McClelland & Stewart