The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo is the story of five generations of the Keller women – first born daughters. As I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into this novel I became embroiled in these women’s lives. This is a beautifully written novel of family, love, secrets, and the joys and struggles that come from living together as a family.
The Keller women also have a unique thing about them and that is that they manage to lead very long and relatively healthy lives. Anna, at 112 years old, is the head of the family and she is bound and determined to live to be the oldest person in the world. She’s a strong woman who is in full control of all of her faculties and it seems that her word is the still the last to be uttered in any debate. Then there is her daughter Bets, granddaughter Callie, great- granddaughter Deb, and great-great-granddaughter Erin although Deb is incarcerated in prison for killing her husband and Erin’s father. Erin had come to live with the women when she was a young girl and these women have formed who she is today.
Being that it is quite unusual for so many in the same family line to live such extended lives the women have caught the eye of a geneticist who feels that by studying them and their DNA he can hopefully figure out how to slow down the aging process and extend the lives of other people. However not everyone is interested in having their secrets unlocked and Anna is one of those. There are some long buried secrets in her past that she feels would be best left there. And now Erin has come back home and is pregnant. Will there be yet another first born Keller daughter to come?
These women were all so real. They don’t have the perfect family and we all know how women can be if they are living together and the Keller clan is no different. They have their arguments and jealousies to contend with but it is in their flaws that we come to care about them so much. I liked them all in their own way except for Callie and Deb, who not so surprisingly are mother and daughter. Callie just seemed much to focused on herself and Deb was quite bitter from having spent many years in prison. Anna though was my favorite of the women. To have that much life experience to share with your family and to still be healthy enough to do it would be even better. I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be to be a part of so many generations of women like this.
And all along as you read is the ever present olive in the background. A few of the women believe it is the reason for their longevity. They use the oil for absolutely everything from eating it in all their food to putting it on their skin. I loved the descriptions of the area and most especially of the food. Describing the olive oil and garlic pasta made my mouth water many times over to the point where I think I will just have to roast myself some garlic and make some although I know for sure mine won’t be as good. This family grabbed my heart and as I turned the last page I was very sorry that I had to say goodbye to them. The Roots of the Olive Tree is a novel I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend!
The Roots of the Olive Tree is on tour with TLC Book Tours so be sure to check out all the other tour stops and see what others are saying about the book. You can find Courtney on her website, Facebook page, Twitter, as well as her Pinterest page. You can purchase your own copy of this lovely novel here in the US and here in Canada.
Source: Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours and Publisher via Edelweiss. No compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.