I’m never sure whether I should research an author or book too much before I start reading, especially if it is an advanced copy. On one hand I wouldn’t mind knowing where this novel fits within their repertoire (is it a first, a tenth, a hundredth?) or are they a writer by training? And on the other hand do I really want to have those pre conceived notions? Sometimes that really works well for an author.
If I’m reading a novel that I’m not sure is a first novel or not and I read it with no pre-conceived notions and then I go back and find out that it is a first novel it often makes me reflect on it differently and that is the case with The Waiting Tree. I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and received no compensation for my honest response.
This is Moynihan’s first novel and it was a good novel; it wasn’t great, but it bordered on great which is all you can really ask for in a first novel. I vaguely remember it saying this was her first novel, but there were times where the maturity of her writing made me think this couldn’t be her first novel, but there were a few occasions which made me think it could be her first novel.
And one last comment before I move on to my response. To the people on Goodreads who thought this would be a feel good happy read, you clearly didn’t read the synopsis and even if you didn’t, don’t complain about it on Goodreads. You chose to read the book. It was well written and yes the story wasn’t a ‘happy go lucky’ story, but it still leaves you with a bit of hope and a realistic outlook for the characters. Now on to my response.
Let’s start with the strengths. I think what the person complained about on Goodreads is one of the things that makes this book a good novel. It doesn’t give you a happily ever after and it most definitely does NOT give you a rose-colored view of the world. Not only does Simon have to deal with the fall out of being caught with his pants down literally, he has to deal with the fact that his parents died in a car accident (prior to the start of the novel) and has to deal with a twin brother who has some sort of mental difference which makes him mute (autism maybe? it’s not ever said explicitly) and the chaos of all of this happening in a poor Louisiana town. And yet at the same time Moynihan walks a fine line of never giving so much the reader, and Simon.
This, along with her characters made this novel border on great. It’s very rare that an adult writer writes a great teenage character, especially one that has additional transitions on top of just their age and puberty. Moynihan did a great job of this with Simon (and Tina and all the characters) toeing the line between seriousness, sarcasm and lightness. For example, when his whole world appears to be falling apart Simon throws in this ringer,
“I decided that if being gay meant I could avoid all the female hormonal stuff, then it wasn’t me they needed to feel sorry for.” (Chapter 13)
And this just made me laugh relieving the seriousness of the situation at the time and in doing so prepared the reader for the tougher decisions Simon faced in the final chapters.
Overall there were more pros to cons for the novel, but the two cons were pretty big: I couldn’t tell when the book took place and there was no closure on Paul’s role concerning Stan. Now the book had to take place sometime in the last 10-15 years, and probably even 3-5 years, because of one throw away line about pay-as-you-go cell phones and the opening line about an iPod, but after that this book really could have been set at any time in the last 20-30 years and that bothered me for some reason. I’m not sure if it was lack of detail or what, but I just couldn’t get a good time frame for my mind and this bothered me.
As for Paul and Stan, you’ll have to read the book, but I honestly don’t know what happened there. I’m still upset about what happened with Jude, but at the same time it made me smile and even tear up a bit. The things one does for those they love are amazing and self-sacrifice, well what can you really say about it?
Recommendation: If you want to read a moving short coming of age novel, this is the one (especially if you want a recently written novel). The more I think about it the closer the book gets to great, I’m now thinking it’s bordering on a 4.5/5 rather than a 4/4.5 on Goodreads. The fact that the main character is gay and that was what drew me to the novel and that’s not what I focused on as I read, even though it is a major part, shows me just how troubled Simon’s life was and how great Moynihan’s writing was to over power his problems that arose from his sexuality compared to the other problems he faced.
Opening Line: “Stephen’s iPod was set on a loop, blasting Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet at high volume for the tenth time.”
Closing Line: “This wasn’t the end. Not for Stephen, not for me, and certainly not for Jude. This was only just the beginning.” (Whited out.)