Last year I had the pleasure of experiencing Christine Nolfi's debut novel, the acclaimed Treasure Me, and this month I was more than thrilled when the author invited me to review her latest work, The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge. If you recall my review of Treasure Me you'll know I was quite enamored with the book, and with Nolfi's storytelling. A lot of people will say that when a reader is in the process of discovering an author, the second book becomes almost more important than the first. With The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge Christine Nolfi solidified her talent for crafting engaging characters, gripping storylines and palpable drama. It was, yet again, a remarkable book.
The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge is the story of Ourania D’Andre, a strong-willed woman who lives every day fighting the memories of a tumultuous past; she's an electrician, a loner, and she's just been thrust into the uncharted waters of foster parenthood. Coming to understand the battered children in her care may seem hard enough, but Ourania is also coming face-to-face with her past as she begins working construction on the lavish Fagan mansion, where her new boss is none other than the brooding Troy Fagan; a man who holds more keys to Ourania's emotional past than she could ever imagine. As Ourania and Troy battle out their feelings – through anger, fear, and passion – new threats emerge to throw their world into a chaos fresher than the one they've spent so long trying to forget. It's a heady, romantic and suspenseful thrill ride as Troy and Ourania discover the bold-faced realities of humanity's most impossible crimes, and the danger it spells for the foster children Ourania has come to love. Intertwined within their explosive obstacles and bitter memories, a journey of self-understanding, acceptance and ultimate forgiveness molds The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge into a novel brimming with power, expertly navigated by Nolfi's fearless prose.
I loved the book, and although that seems like an awkward word to use on a story whose subject matter runs the gamut from rape and child abuse to murder, there's a brightness to the book that lingers constantly in the goodness of the characters – of Ourania and her foster children, Walt and Emma, and of the solitary, conflicted Troy. It's that brightness that keeps the reader from feeling too weighted down by the prospects the story suggests. The result is a novel of remarkable, rare substance that leaves you feeling as though you've run a mile, lived an entire life, by the end of it. And you want to grab hold and relive the whole story, the whole experience, all over again.