Since 1978, Agatha Stuart’s cottage—perched between rising hills and the pebbled shore on the remote edge of Arran, an island off the west coast of Scotland—has served as temporary refuge for women of the Stuart family from around the world. Though Agatha didn’t set out to become caregiver to so many, she finds herself relishing this role and anticipating her latest guest on a typical Scottish summer’s day. Fourteen-year-old Hope Carver makes her way to Arran from South Carolina, exiled after her mother caught her taking the same pills to which her father was addicted, the same pills that ultimately caused him to abandon the family. When Hope’s father disappeared, he left a void between Hope and her mother, Margaret, that rapidly increased. Margaret remains in South Carolina, struggling to regain her emotional footing in the face of her disintegrating dream of home and family. Though Agatha seems rooted in her sense of self, the story of her development in the aftermath of her father’s death when Agatha was 13 reveals wounds left untended decade after decade.
Bound by the thin threads of family and abandonment, the three women maintain their emotional distance until an accident in the dark in Glen Rosa thrusts them together and forces them to see each other fully.
The Thorn Tree takes the reader across continents – from Hope and Margaret’s first fraught confrontation in South Carolina to the emigrations of Agatha’s sisters to England, America, Canada and Australia – and through generations – from the death of Agatha’s father in the seas off the coast of Skye in 1938, through World War II in Glasgow and on to the present day. Witty, intelligent and painfully human, Hope, Margaret and Agatha come of age, come to terms with mid-life and reckon with death, respectively, while they grapple with honoring their differences and strengthening each other.
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Publication in July, 2014.