If Trees Could Talk

Written by Margot McMahon
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

If Trees Could Talk is a historical novel/memoir of noted artist Margot McMahon recounting colorful decades in her life set against the context of historical events. The book opens in 1997 with Margot asking her mother why the family moved to Spain when she was so young. The ensuing conversation with both parents recounts how McCarthyism had targeted American artists, and her parents felt the need to flee. Although they returned to America, this vignette sets the stage for the McMahon family’s unconventional life. While her father sketched and photographed notable events and her mother continued to write, Margot and her siblings led a lifestyle nurtured by art and an awareness of social injustices.

This book has four sections, chronicling the family’s life and the American historical events that impacted everyone. From the 1950s on and from Chicago to east and west, the reader learns about Margot’s family’s full Irish background, with all the colorful characters filling out the pages.

I enjoyed the book and the stunning artwork of the artist interspersed throughout the chapters. But since this was primarily a memoir, I found myself reading it through a different lens than if it had been a novel. It seems that the author wrote this story as a gift to her children to help them learn their ties to the past. And a beautiful gift it is.