I didn’t know much about the plot of Far From the Tree before picking it up. My sister Snapped me the cover with the caption “you will like this” so I added it to my TBR without a second thought. I trust her recommendations; while we don’t have identical tastes we have a pretty good understanding of what the other will like. In this instance she was most definitely correct.
Far From the Tree is told in alternating points of view. Grace is 16 years old and just gave her daughter up for adoption after an unplanned pregnancy. This sparks Grace’s desire to track down her own biological mother. While her parents don’t have a lot of information about their daughter’s biological mother they have two big bombs to drop- Grace has two siblings. Maya, a 15 year old with a “miracle baby” sister who is the biological daughter of Maya’s adoptive parents and Joaquin, a 17 year old whose spent his whole life bouncing around foster care after being returned from an adoptive family as a toddler.
When he looked up at Maya and Grace, both of them gasped a little.
It was Joaquin.
“He looks like you,” they both said at the same time, and Maya supposed that neither of them was wrong.
While the trio get close quickly they keep some big secrets from one another. Grace hasn’t told her siblings the reason she wants to find their mother is because she just gave up her own baby, Maya keeps her mother’s alcoholism and her parents’ divorce to herself and Joaquin keeps his violent past with previous foster families from his sisters. Joaquin has a lot of pain about being given up, not just by his biological mom but by two adoptive parents, and you really feel for him as he struggles to accept that his current foster parents may be the real deal. He also has to contend with the jealousy that comes from seeing that his sisters were adopted by families that paid a lot for them and have given them enviably comfortable lives while also being happy that they were not subjected to the same hardships he was.
Benway’s novel is wonderfully written. She did an expert job at depicting different family dynamics particularly with Maya and her sister, Lauren. My sister and I constantly tease the other that we are the favorite child (or the easier child) but I couldn’t imagine the extra tension of being the adopted sibling of a biological child. And Grace’s story line just broke my heart.
Overall the teens felt very rooted in reality; while their situation may be extreme it never felt over the top. I had trouble putting this one down and even got a bit misty eyed towards the end. I just really loved every moment.