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Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: The Tulip Tree by Howard Rigsby

I have a set of bookshelves dedicated to books I have read that I want to keep. These are usually hardback (if I can get them in hardback) and are books that stand out because of great writing and an exceptional story. The majority are fiction.

The Tulip Tree, written in 1963, is one I have just added to this collection. The story centers around a young couple, Josephine and Kimball Watts who have looked for the ideal house (with character) for their small family. They long for an oasis from the city where Kimball works for a publishing company. Though it is set in 1960’s the story seems timeless and if you were to ask me who the main character of the story is, I would have to say, it’s the house.

After months of searching, they finally find a house in the Hudson valley that meets Josephine’s criteria but she balks when they find a dead bird in one of the rooms.  Josephine, who’s superstitious, sees it as a bad omen. But Kindall, weary of looking, and brushing her reservations aside, persuades her that a dead bird holds no significance. Unknown to them, the house, originally built as two separate houses by two brothers in the 1700’s and later joined in the center, has a mysterious and violent history. Before the houses were ever built there was a tragic massacre of children by Indians on the surrounding land. Unhappiness continues to plague the house’s inhabitants as heirs have risen against heirs and blood has been shed. Great wrongs have been done and the gravest and darkest is horrible mistreatment and torture of a black slave who became a sacrificial lamb of sorts.

The Watts come to know many of the different local characters, who are as strange and mystical as the house with lineages dating back to the earliest years. At the center of the story lies the question, can there ever be healing for such severe injustices and deplorable wrong doings or will it continue to perpetuate itself? In the midst of this turmoil the Watts’ find the house to have a malevolent spirit. Mystical, suspenseful, and with characters as strange and creepy as those you might meet at a carnival side show, this book kept me turning pages to see how it would it. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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