Monday, July 12, 2010
The Crying Tree tells the story of Irene and Nate Stanley and their two children, Bliss and Shep, who have just relocated to the tiny town of Blaine, Oregon, where Nate is the new deputy sheriff. Just as the family is settling in, a horrible tragedy occurs. Fifteen-year-old Shep is brutally shot to death in the family home. The aftermath of this murder is the bulk of the story. Nate retreats into a brooding silence, Irene finds comfort in alcohol, and Bliss is left to raise herself. In a desperate move to heal her grief, Irene writes an angry letter to Shep’s killer, Daniel Robbins, who is spending his entire adult life on death row. To her surprise, he answers her letter and the two begin a secret correspondence that will last years and become the sustaining force in Irene’s life. But as the day of Robbins’s execution draws near, all of the shocking secrets that the Stanley family have been living with for years come out. This is a novel that exposes the fault lines and cracks that appear when unthinkable tragedy turns a family upside down. It is also an original and unforgettable story of forgiveness, redemption, and the transformative power of love.
Naseem Rakha is an award-winning author and broadcast journalist whose stories have been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace Radio, Christian Science Monitor, and Living on Earth. In 1996 she was assigned to cover Oregon’s first execution in more than thirty years. The condemned man was convicted of killing three homeless men and a child, among other crimes.
That experience led to years of research and interviews. Rakha spoke with inmates, crime victims, prosecutors, defense attorneys, exonerated death row inmates, and Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking.
"The murder of a child dredges up the most painful emotions. There is no justice in it, no justification, and no way to find solace. Remorse and vengeance become inseparable from the souls of the people left behind. Yet, somehow there are inspirational stories of those who have come to forgiveness.
"I found this baffling situation as a reporter covering an execution for public radio and then later in interviews with the parents of murder victims. I wanted to understand how an individual can move from one place to another – hate to forgiveness, despondency to hope – what that road looks like, and what toll it must exact."
Rakha lives in Oregon's Willamette Valley with her husband, son, and many animals. When she isn’t writing, she’s likely to be reading, knitting, hiking, or gardening. Some of her favorite authors to read include Kent Haruf, Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Ernest Gaines, Richard Russo, E.M. Forster, and Truman Capote.
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