The Trees of Eden

Written by Linda Dorrell
Review by Mary K. Bird-Guilliams

This novel takes place during the Influenza Epidemic of 1917-1918. The setting of a small town in South Carolina and a well detailed cast of characters allows the devastating impact of the epidemic to draw the reader along at first hand experience pace. The opening chapter presents us the first victim, and because the main characters (mother and daughter) are healers, they encounter the deadly disease in these first pages. Their lives are already complex and full of issues. The mother is dominating, yet her mental state is precariously balanced, and she is unwilling to grant her daughter the freedom from domesticity that she claims for herself with her healing and her garden. Wren, the daughter, is filled with enthusiasm for the suffrage movement and political equality for women. She speaks on votes for women in the town square, dreaming of being the first local woman mayor, but she lacks the street smarts to avoid being victimized by a local rich boy. The Biblical phrase that gives the book its title is one that speaks of how the mighty are envied, and how they can fall. Mounting fatalities from the influenza ripple across the underlying emotional topography; the deaths are tragic, but as is the way with natural disasters, sometimes the eventual outcome is liberating for the survivors. Readers who would shy away from heavy-handed Christian fiction may be delighted with this more subtle book, while those who prefer to read in the genre will also be pleased and satisfied.