The Island of Missing Trees
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by Elif Shafak
Publication date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Hardcover: 368 Pages
A rich, magical new novel on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.
Years later a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited— her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.
A moving, beautifully written, and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history, and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak’s best work yet.
About the author
Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She has published 19 books, 12 of which are novels. She is a bestselling author in many countries around the world and her work has been translated into 55 languages. Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and was Blackwell’s Book of the Year.
Read more about Elif ON HER WEBSITE
“Shafak’s novel conveys how our ancestors’ stories can reach us obliquely, unconsciously … Shafak is cleareyed about how difficult it is to reach across the gulfs within our families: At the end of the novel, Ada is only beginning to learn about her history, and her grief.” – Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Images of transformation and transition gracefully emerge and recur as Shafak explores what love can and cannot heal. Her moving depiction of inherited trauma will stay with readers, as will her insightful nods to war’s effects on the natural world…this tragic tale tempered by enduring love and a fantastical ending is an overall triumph.” – Shelf Awarness (starred review)
“A commentary on the bitter legacy of war …. [and] also a commentary on the folly of our adversarial relationship with nature and our refusal to learn from the flora and fauna with which we share the planet … the scope of her thematic ambition is impressive, and [Shafak] is a compelling storyteller. She writes as well about teenage irascibility as about profound human suffering, and, like the wise fig tree, understands the interconnectedness of all things great and small.” – Claire Messud, Harper’s
“A beautiful contemplation of some of life’s biggest questions about identity, history and meaning.” – Time, “Most Anticipated Books of Fall”
“A book about belonging and identity, a fig tree serves as the only symbol of history and connection to the island Ada Kazantzakis lives. It’s a beautiful nod to an individual finding a place in a big world. As Reese Witherspoon’s November pick in her book club, The Island of Missing Trees is one of those books with a touching message you’ll want to soak into this winter.” – The New York Post