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Greenwood by Michael Christie

Greenwood: a green cover features a cross-section of a tree trunkA review by Emma Streeton

I have been delaying writing this review for a bizarre reason. I am worried that what I write will never be able to do this book the justice it deserves. What I will say though is that if there is just one book you must read in 2020 it is this one. I would love to erase the experience of reading this novel from my mind, just to be able to go back and experience it all over again.  It really is that good.

Emma, we’ve talked about this before. Don’t START by telling people they want to read it.   PS can I borrow it? I think I need to read it too! — Editor


On a remote island off the Pacific coast of British Columbia stands the Greenwood Arboreal Cathedral, one of the world’s last forests. Wealthy tourists flock from all corners of the dust-choked globe to see the spectacle and remember what once was. But even as they breathe in the fresh air and pose for photographs amidst the greenery, guide Jake knows that the forest is dying, though her bosses won’t admit it.


Two passenger locomotives meet head-on. The only survivors are two young boys, who take refuge in a trapper’s cabin in a forest on the edge of town. In twenty-six years, one of them, now a recluse, will find an abandoned baby — another child of Greenwood — setting off a series of events that will change the course of his life, and the lives of those around him.


Structured like the rings of a tree, this incredible novel moves from the future to the present to the past, and back again. It tells the story of one family and their continuing connection to the place that brought them together. Just as every generation inherits the mistakes made by their families before them, every child in the Greenwood family struggles with the legacy of their parents.

“Time…..is not an arrow. Neither is it a road. It goes in no particular direction. It simply accumulates—in the body, in the world—like wood does. Layer upon layer. Light, then dark. Each one dependent upon the last. Each year impossible without the one preceding it. Each triumph and each disaster written forever in its structure.”

One lives a quiet life in the trees, interrupted by the rescue of an abandoned child. Another makes his living cutting down those trees. A daughter vows to protect the trees her father hasn’t yet destroyed. A son works timber to escape his upbringing. A daughter tries to preserve the last trees in a world that is rapidly dying. These characters lay the foundations for a compelling page-turner. Every one of Christie’s characters found their way into my heart, Everett Greenwood especially.

The verdict

Michael Christie has produced a sweeping family saga of survival and resilience. He has filled it with fascinating characters whose lives are tied to the trees. He shows a cross section of one family’s history. In doing so he slowly reveals their dark past and secrets, their loves and losses, and the consequences of a train accident that occurred four generations earlier. As the reader is taken from the future to the past and then back again, the novel builds into an epic story. It is completely absorbing. I could not stop reading. And when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.

Greenwood is an absolute must read for 2020. This book left me feeling so many emotions and I am certain it will remain on my list of favorite reads for some time to come.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN (13): 9781925713855
Imprint: Scribe Publishing
Format: paperback, 512 pages
Released: 2020
Category: historical fiction, speculative fiction, family saga

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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