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The Crying Tree


The Crying Tree Cover



Reading Group Guide


Why did Irene believe that she could not tell anyone about having forgiven Robbin? What did she think would happen? What was she afraid of? Have you ever forgiven someone but been afraid to admit it?


Do you think that, like Irene, you could forgive someone who harmed your family?


Irene tells her sister that forgiving Robbin was not a choice. What do you think she meant?


Do you think it is necessary to have a belief in a God or a higher power to have made the choices Irene made? Do you think the ability to forgive can be learned?


In the first chapter, Tab Mason describes his reaction to seeing his first execution. Have you ever given much thought to how executions affect those who must carry them out?


Secrets—Nate’s, Shep’s, Irene’s—are the driving force behind the tragedy in this story. Do you think it is common for families to operate in such isolation from one another?


Nate says he moved his family west to help Shep. How did he think this would help?


How would you describe the novel’s central message or theme? And how does the ending of the book affect your understanding of the novel’s central message or theme?


Tab Mason has an unusual skin disorder. Why do you think I chose to mark him in such a way? What difference would it make, if any, if he were simply a black man? Or a white man?


Tab Mason is a man who offers “no surprises.” He is painstakingly in control of his words, his thoughts, and his emotions. And this has paid off, giving him the job, power, and resources to live a very comfortable life. Why then do you think he was willing to risk it all to help Irene Stanley?


Bliss recounts a time she found her father having an emotional breakdown while in the barn. The event was heart-wrenching for her. Bliss loved and cared for her father more than anyone, yet she does nothing to try to help. Does it make sense to you that Bliss did not try to step in and help her father?


Irene and Bliss had a difficult relationship. How was this transformed by Irene’s act of forgiveness?


Bliss feels compelled to forgo her dream of college so that she can stay in Carlton and help her parents. Have you had times in your life when you have given up your dreams to help others?


Why do you think Daniel Robbin refuses the offer to introduce new evidence that might overturn his murder conviction?


In the end, Nate is in a bus going to Shep’s grave. Why do you think he is doing this? Do you think Nate’s  character changed over the course of the book? If so, how? If not, why not?


Irene’s relationship with her church and faith were challenged in this story. In the end do you think her belief in God was stronger or weaker?

17. Why, of all the people Irene had in her life, did she open up to Doris, the woman who owned the Hitching Post in Wyoming?


After Nate’s confession, Irene leaves her husband. As she drives across the country, how do her feelings about her son’s death, Nate , and herself change?


Irene had strong feelings about staying around her family (“You don’t leave family,” in chapter 2). Yet emotionally, Irene did leave her family. She was not there for her daughter through high school, she never turned to her sister for help, and she and Nate’s relationship was estranged. In the end, what did this belief in family mean? What conclusions about Nate and Irene’s future can you draw from this sentiment?


In the end, what do you think Irene, Bliss, and Tab Mason’s actions meant to Daniel Robbin?

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

crb2, January 5, 2013 (view all comments by crb2)
The story line was okay. However, the author really should have delved more into what is involved in DEFENDING capital cases in Oregon. As someone who has worked in capital defense for 20 years, the portrayal of how this case was handled was insulting to those dedicated professionals who work in this area. The story became a real work of fiction for me when I realized the author has not researched the true history of the current death penalty scheme in Oregon and the affect such seminole cases as Penry have had on it. While I am sure it will help assuage those who are pro-death penalty that this is the right thing to do or those who are against it about how "people can change or make things right with each other", it does nothing to really discuss what truly goes on in preparing a case such as this or the dedicated people who work tirelessly for those society wants to label "monster", lock in an 8x8 cell for decades, then kill.
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Iris, July 2, 2012 (view all comments by Iris)
In 1996, Naseem Rakha was assigned by NPR to cover the first execution in 34 years of a death row inmate in Oregon. Rakha's research in order to write a story to be aired the day of the execution was the beginning of her examination of the death penalty. Eventually, it led her to write a novel based on the Oregon execution and others. Written with the integrity of a journalist and the literary skill of a storyteller, the book delves deep into the complexities of crime, punishment, and forgiveness and provides its own healing power.
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Live to Read, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Live to Read)
Naseem Rakha's moving novel deals with classic themes: family, love, secrets, mistakes, forgiveness. As the story develops and new information is slowly revealed, you become more drawn into the drama and more immersed in the realtionship's in the family. As in most families, there are secrets and pain but also love and hope. I love this story. Do yourself a favor and read it soon!
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Product Details

Rakha, Naseem
Broadway Books
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
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Trade paper
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8 x 5.18 x .8 in .6063 lb

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The Crying Tree Used Trade Paper
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Product details 368 pages Broadway Books - English 9780767931748 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[A] beautiful and passionate novel... Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "The Crying Tree is a powerful novel full of moral questions as well as surprises. Like real life, there are no easy roads for these characters, but they make their way, one step at a time."
"Review" by , "Rakha writes of one of her central subjects, 'and it wasn't anything she knew how to handle.' Not so for the author, who has crafted not only a compelling read, but one whose message lingers: At what point does that to which we cling for our survival become the very thing that robs us of our life?"
"Review" by , "Beautifully written, expertly crafted, forcefully rendered. Naseem Rakha lays bare all the ambiguities and nuances of our culture in a story that is compelling and deep. The Crying Tree is a story of forgiveness and redemption, but at its core it is a love story as well, and that is the most powerful story of all."
"Review" by , "This is a gripping, well-paced tale, compassionate without being mawkish."
"Synopsis" by , Dramatic, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting, The Crying Tree is an unforgettable story of love and redemption, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the transformative power of forgiveness.
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