2016 Book 265: FAMILY TREE by Susan Wiggs

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs
ISBN: 9780062425430 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062425478 (ebook)
ASIN: B01825C50W (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 9, 2016 
Publisher: William Morrow

For readers of Kristin Hannah and Jodi Picoult comes a powerful, emotionally complex story of love, loss, the pain of the past—and the promise of the future.

Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes.

Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.

Annie Rush has always dreamed of combining her two loves, film, and food. As a child, she videotaped cooking shows in her family’s kitchen. As an adult, she is producing a cooking show, The Key Ingredient, with her chef husband, Martin Harlow. The show is a hit, her marriage is going well, and now she’s pregnant. But Annie’s dream quickly turns into a nightmare in Susan Wigg’s latest, Family Tree.

Annie Rush grew up in a small town in rural Vermont. Her family owns and operates a farm that produces maple syrup. Living in her family’s ancestral home with her mother, brother, and maternal grandparents, Annie is happy but wants more. She wants to travel, cook, and learn as much as possible about the world and food. During her senior year of high school, she meets and falls in love with Fletcher Wyndham, a transfer student. Her romance with Fletcher is hot and heavy throughout much of their senior year and becomes an off-again/on-again relationship during her college years. As Annie struggles with what she truly wants out of life, her senior film project becomes an internet sensation and before she knows it, she has an agent, an entertainment lawyer, and a contract with a production company in California. The star of her film project, Martin Harlow, is now the star of a new cooking show and Annie’s husband. A few years later Annie discovers she’s pregnant. Eager to share the news with her husband, she leaves an important interview for the studio and discovers her husband in flagrante delicto with his cohost. Annie storms off the set and is injured in a freak accident. Fast forward a year and Annie wakes up in a rehabilitation facility in Vermont. She doesn’t remember much of the past decade nor understand why she’s back in Vermont. As she regains her strength and some of her memories, Annie reconnects with her high-school love. Now she must decide what she wants from this second chance at life and love.

I found Family Tree to be a fast-paced and engaging read. I enjoyed the way Ms. Wiggs presented Annie’s story in then-and-now vignettes. The “then” stories provide the reader with Annie’s past in Vermont with Fletcher and her family, as well as with Martin in New York and California. The “now” sections focus on Annie in rehab and post-recovery. Both versions of Annie reveal a woman in the process of uncovering her strengths and weaknesses. The then Annie doesn’t really trust her inner voice and loses the love of her life, Fletcher, after graduating from college. The now version of Annie isn’t as quick to throw love away, even if she doesn’t really trust her feelings or those of others for the long-haul. Family Tree provides a bit of romance and self-discovery in a story about memory, family, friends, hope, love, and second chances. if you’ve never read anything by Ms. Wiggs then Family Tree may be the perfect book for your first read by this author. If you’ve previously read books by Ms. Wiggs, then you’ll want to grab a copy of Family Tree to read ASAP.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 115: THE APPLE ORCHARD Review

The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs
ISBN:  9780778314936 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781460311899 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00ALTWXFA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Tess Delaney makes a living restoring stolen treasures to their rightful owners. People like Annelise Winther, who refuses to sell her long-gone mother’s beloved necklace—despite Tess’s advice. To Annelise, the jewel’s value is in its memories.

But Tess’s own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter. So Tess is shocked when she discovers the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. And that she has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel.

The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she’s never heard of.

Against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep. A place where falling in love is not only possible, but inevitable.

And in a season filled with new experiences, Tess begins to see the truth in something Annelise once told her: if you don’t believe memories are worth more than money, then perhaps you’ve not made the right kind of memories.

From one of America’s most beloved writers, The Apple Orchard is a story of family ties—both old and new—and of the moments that connect our hearts.

Tess Delaney is living a fast-paced life in San Francisco. She has a job she loves and friends she adores. What she doesn’t have a lot of is family, just an absentee mother. Until the day Dominic Rossi walks into her life and informs her that she has a grandfather and a half-sister. He also informs her that her grandfather is in the hospital in a coma and she needs to accompany him to Archangel, California in the Sonoma to help make some decisions. How can she be expected to make decisions with family she never knew she had? Will she be able to accept the love and responsibility that goes along with having family? 

Upon her arrival, Tess and Isabel are informed that their grandfather’s business, an apple orchard named Bella Vista, is being foreclosed. As Tess struggles with the news of her new family, she must also struggle with getting to know her sister, and help make decisions for a floundering business. This forces Tess and Isabel to pour over the mountains of paperwork their grandfather has and they discover something in an old family photograph what may become the orchard’s salvation.

The Apple Orchard weaves the present with the past. The present consists of the story of Tess Delaney and her half-sister Isabel Johansen. The past is a blend of Tess’s mother and father along with Tess and Isabel’s paternal grandfather Magnus as a member of the Danish Resistance during World War II. Obviously Tess knows little about her grandfather’s past, but neither does Isabel. They gradually piece together his past along with their father’s past as they work to get to know one another. Tess is a city girl that lives life on the go, addicted to energy drinks, black coffee and microwaveable food. Isabel is more used to the somewhat slower pace in rural Sonoma. She left cooking school to help take care of her sick grandmother and stayed on to care for her grandfather. Isabel is a nurturer and shows her care and love for others with her food. Tess has never connected with anyone after her maternal grandmother’s death and she’s having a difficult time with the notion of family. Tess also struggles with her feelings toward Dominic. She’s attracted to him, but she doesn’t know if she’s cut out for a relationship with a divorced single father.

Ms. Wiggs presents an enjoyable read with The Apple Orchard. The inclusion of a family mystery adds to the overall tension within the story. My only regret is that Isabel comes across as a bit flighty and flat. The other characters are all well-developed and their personalities shine through quite well except for Isabel (hopefully she’ll be addressed in future books in this series). There are many overlapping storylines in The Apple Orchard, new family ties, a love story, lost heirlooms, and family secrets. There’s just enough intrigue mixed with romance and a touch of historical elements to make this an enjoyable weekend read for anyone.

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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