Amazon Reviews:

Online Book Club Review:

Tree of Lives by Elizabeth Garden is a spiritual journey about multiple branches in the family tree of Ruth and her great-uncle Raymond. Told from a shifting perspective, [one] must work to find their footing with a perplexing introduction that transitions into a very rewarding story. Ruth’s extended family is hiding a mysterious tragedy, and the mystery slowly unravels as you follow her rocky transition from childhood to adulthood. Unbeknownst to her, Ruth’s journey through life is not exactly solitary.


Ruth’s story is typical of many children growing up in the 1950s. Her family unit centered around the father-as-tyrant who held his family captive by way of his explosive outbursts. Ruth spends her life encountering and succumbing to men cast in that same mold. Her family’s history of abuse is detailed through her story and in a parallel plot that slowly reveals the struggles within Raymond’s family and their untimely end.


Elizabeth Garden’s novel and weaves a compelling story about institutionalized violence and how families grow numb to its presence. She illustrates how this domestic tyranny is perpetuated throughout generations and the lives of the victims. The book has an overarching spirituality that meanders through many of the chapters, often using trees and birds as allegories. It spans many different types of organized and non-organized schools of religious dogma; Garden’s thoughts on spirituality transcend organized religion and leave no one behind. While she punctuates the story with some great quotable lines and bouts of humor, Tree of Lives invites its audience to think deeply about their family history and their individual relationships.


As previously mentioned, the beginning of the book [may seem to be] floundering to find solid ground within the plot. It does take a little bit of time before things start to click into place, but it is worth the initial confusion. I found myself invested in the characters and their stories. It also made me think deeply about my own relationships and how similar my father was to many of the men depicted. I think the mark of a good book is that it makes you really think, and Elizabeth Garden hits the nail on the head with this work. This is a thought-provoking listen for someone interested in exploring family dynamics and breaking the status quo that the head of the household is an authoritarian male. The author realistically portrays domestic violence and sexual abuse; Tree of Lives could easily trigger survivors of abuse and those sensitive to controversial topics.

Readers’ Favorite: 5 Stars

Tree of Lives, written by Elizabeth Garden and with artwork by Barbara Bose, is a work of women’s fiction in a hybrid historical-contemporary setting that follows the account of one woman’s journey to self-empowerment in the face of immense adversity. Through the detailed life of Ruth and with a deeply intimate look at her family, Garden explores the intricacies of familial connections and the profound impact of buried secrets on future generations. The book deftly navigates between the early 1900s tale of Raymond and Ruth’s present-day story, weaving together the threads of their emotional narratives with a remarkable and cataclysmic outcome that dredges up a deeply haunting history. Ruth’s layers of pain stem from beyond an abusive, unstable upbringing that no person should ever be subjected to, and the outlet she uses to shatter the mold is hers alone.
Tree of Lives by Elizabeth Garden is not an easy read, but it is a very worthy one. For centuries women have been exploited at the hands of abusive men, and Ruth’s particularly harrowing experiences are sensitively portrayed in Garden’s writing. We are able to witness firsthand as Ruth emerges as the most resilient of female protagonists. She will not be silenced. She will not be robbed of her strength. Through Ruth, Garden offers a poignant reminder of the importance of self-empowerment and the courage needed to break free from the shackles of the past. Within each of us, there is a hidden well from which we can draw our power, whether it is filled with art or any other channel of love. Overall, this is a tale that is often painful but equally inspiring and I have no doubt that readers with an interest in complex soul-searching into family secrets and the dynamics they forge will feel the same way. Very highly recommended.