Review: The Umbrella Tree by Nicholas A. McGirr

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Publication: June 4th 2016
Publisher: Amazon
Pages: 27 pages
Source: Author (Thank you! :D)
Genre: Novelette, After-life, Fiction
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Umbrella Tree is incredibly different from the first book in the Tree Collection. It isn’t ambiguous like The Life Tree which I found very comforting. When I received this book in the mail, I wondered whether or not it would be a direct sequel from The Life Tree following the protagonist and whether or not they came to the realize that they had committed suicide and been transformed into a Life Tree. I was surprised to find that the novel followed a new character, a man named Strickland, an alcoholic who had his full memories of life and was transformed as an Umbrella Tree in his next life. I reread The Life Tree just before starting The Umbrella Tree just in case my former theory was correct. While it’s a beautiful and poetic book, it is incredibly frustrating. Every chapter is full of questions with the unnamed, ungendered, unknown protagonist trying and ultimately failing to remember who they were alive, though the Afterword at the end does a great job at clearing up and answering most of the questions from the novelette.

I enjoyed The Umbrella Tree much more for how clear cut and honest it was. I enjoyed Strickland’s voice and how even in death he was still an alcoholic (though now forced to be be sober). I enjoyed how sarcastic he was, how unwilling he was to talk about certain things. I enjoyed how he talked about his past and how much he missed his wife who he drove away with his drinking. I haven’t read many novels with alcoholic protagonists, but Strickland’s narrative really gave a glimpse to how strong a hold alcohol can have on a person.

The only criticism, like I gave in my review for The Life Tree, is that it’s just too short. I felt like so much more could have been examined and explained about Strickland’s past. And while the Afterword was very helpful for The Life Tree, it felt a bit redundant for this novel. Since their is no ambiguity and the reader knows who Strickland is and his past, explaining what an Umbrella Tree is is a bit unnecessary. I feel it would be better to let the reader infer some of the unanswered things that the Afterword later answers for themselves (like Christopher’s tree).

Overall, The Umbrella Tree is a nice, short read and study about the after-life.

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