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The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

A powerful and intoxicating story of the dangers of climate change.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She has published nineteen books, which include twelve novels. She has been translated into fifty-five languages. Her last novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and Ondaatje Prize. The Island of Missing Trees is a beautifully written novel.

The story begins with a short prologue. “Once upon a memory, at the far end of the Mediterranean Sea, there lay an island so beautiful and blue that the many travelers, pilgrims, crusaders and merchants who fell in love with it either wanted never to leave or tried to tow it with hemp ropes all the way back to their own countries. // Legends, perhaps. // But legends are there to tell us what history has forgotten. // It has been many years since I fled that place on board a plane, inside a suitcase made of soft black leather, never to return. I have since adopted another land, England, where I have grown and thrived, but not a single day passes that I do not yearn to be back. Home. Motherland. // It must be there where I left it, rising and sinking with the waves that break and foam upon its rugged coastline” (1). An interesting and intriguing beginning.

To continue, “Here is how I remember it: golden beaches, turquoise waters, lucid skies. Every year sea turtles would come ashore to lay their eggs in the powdery sand. The late-afternoon wind brought along the scent of gardenia, cyclamen, lavender, honeysuckle. Branching ropes of wisteria climbed up whitewashed walls, aspiring to reach the clouds, hopeful in the way only dreamers are” (1-2).

The story resumes, “Ada Kazanizakis, aged sixteen, sat with a quite intensity in her usual seat by the window at the back of the classroom. Her hair, the colour of burnished mahogany, was gathered in a low-slung ponytail; her delicate features were drawn and tight, and her large, doe-brown eyes seemed to betray a lack of sleep the night before. She was neither looking forward to the festive season nor feeling any excitement at the prospect of snowfall. Every now and then she cast furtive glances outside, though her expression remained mostly unchanged” (9).

“Somewhere in the course of her young life, Ada had understood that he was very different from other fathers, but she still found it hard to take kindly to his obsession with plants. Everyone-else’s fathers worked in offices, shops or government departments, wore matching suits, white shirts and polished black shoes, whereas hers were usually clad in a waterproof jacket, a pair of olive or brown moleskin trousers, rugged boots” (10).

Elif Shafar’s The Island of Missing Trees is a moving and beautifully written, delicately constructed, story of love, division, transcendence, history, and eco-consciousness will move you to tears.” 8 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!