There is something wrong with John.
He should be happy. He knows this. His niece, Amanda, has just married her fiancée. He is well off. He is a respected physics professor. He has money in the bank and can live comfortably for some time. He is good looking and women still find him attractive. He has money to spare and everything in his life is ordered and in it’s proper place.
But still, something is bothering him, something is eating away at him from the inside. John is obsessed with time. He calculates it, studies it, peers at it day in and day out. But he can’t control it. He can’t control his past, present or his future. His is angry at the world, furious for reasons he can’t put into words. But he knows that the trouble started in London.
That the trouble started with his mother.
John does not have fond memories of his mother. After a family tragedy, his mother was a different person. She was no longer his mother but someone more. She was different, her habits were different. And she no longer had time to be his mother. Though he is loathe to admit it, John still carries those scars of what he sees as her betrayal.
While John has one way of looking at things, his own secrets to hide, his mother has her own stories to tell. Grace remembers everything; every word, every occasion, every utterance. She tells her story, tells what really happened, her voice firmly rooted in the past.
She is a consummate storyteller, a spinner of tales with the occasional exaggeration thrown in for good measure. Through her eyes, we hear a different side of things and discover some incredible secrets about life itself.
And though John is loath to go back to London, where all the trouble with his mother started, he will have to go. And what he finds there may be his undoing…
There is no way that my meager plot summary can ever hope to do justice to Tangled Roots. There is so much substance, so much emotion and so much story tucked between the covers of this incredible novel that it would take me pages and pages to describe every delicious detail.
Tangled Roots isn’t a novel you read. It’s a novel you experience. Though at first the shifting of narrators is a bit jarring, it slowly grows to comfort you. You will be reading about John, absorbed in his troubles and turn the page to find Grace waiting for you like an old friend. Though John and Grace’s stories are incredibly different, one rooted in the present, one in the past, both stories are the same and grow from the same bond.
Part mystery, part education on physics, part family drama, part oral history, Tangled Roots is a novel that defies classification. It is also incredibly, wonderfully beautiful. Sue Guiney has written a novel of such beauty, such seemingly simple storylines that, before you know it, the roots of the story have grown into you and won’t let go until you finish the last page.
Sue Guiney has also written a novel that everyone can identify with. How many of us have had troubles with our mothers? How many of us have had trouble with our lives? How many of us struggle with the past that has made us as we are in the present? How many of us struggle with our present so our future is controllable?
Guiney has given us two distinctly different narrators, but we can relate to both of them. She has given us a story of physics, baseball and human nature and the power of story. John and Grace become friends, confidants when the book is done and I know that they will haunt me forever.
Tangled Roots is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. I urge you, plead with you to read Tangled Roots. It will dip its roots into your imagination and you will never want it to let go.