“Greenwood,” by Michael Christie, is a good family saga to read while we are hibernating (versus quarantining).
The novel begins and ends in 2038, a plausible future. It follows the Greenwood family through several generations. The analogy of the family is the forest, how the roots of each are interconnected and intertwined.
The story takes place in Northwest Canada, home to the magnificent Douglas Firs, on an island, a place of refuge and of hiding central to the story. There also is a mysterious journal connecting the generations, hidden, retrieved, missing and found several times.
The earliest generation begins in 1908. Harris Greenwood is a lumber baron. He doesn’t care how much damage he does to the earth, as his corporation deforests the land. He also is blind, somewhat of a sub theme. His brother Everett is a World War One veteran who becomes a vagrant and rides the trains. Eventually he is content to live in the woods. But he continually finds himself in trouble with the law. In their early years the brothers are inseparable. After the war, their relationship becomes acrimonious.
The next generation begins in 1934, with Willow Greenwood, the daughter of Harris. As an adult in the 60s, she becomes an ecological protestor. Willow despises her father and is opposed, sometimes violently, to everything he and capitalism stand for. Willow, Everett, and Harris have a peculiar relationship, which is woven through the story.
Willow gives birth to a son, Liam, in 1974. He is raised in a van as his mother goes from protest to protest. She is embarrassed by the Greenwood name. Eventually, using reclaimed and beautiful wood, Liam becomes a talented and well paid carpenter for the wealthy. He lives in New York for a time.
In 2008, Liam becomes a father to a girl, Jacinda Greenwood. Liam never meets her; she is raised in India because her mother dies in a train wreck.
All of the characters have a relationship with wood, trees and forests. Some identify the trees by the sound they make in the wind. Some know them by their roots. Each of the characters has a deep appreciation and reverence for the different aspects of the trees. Harris, the lumber baron knows the monetary value of the trees.
Willow appreciates the need to preserve and save the forests. Everett and Liam appreciate the beauty of the wood for its usefulness. Jacinda, a scientist, knows the root systems of the trees.
All of the characters struggle with inheritance issues, be they financial, mysterious, or psychological. Some of the inheritances begin in 1908 and continue onward. Some come later.
This story reads easily and the chapters are brief. The description of the northwest forests and Douglas Firs are beautiful. Decisions are made with consequences for future generations. This is a predictable tale, but in a good way, yet there are surprises took which are good for the soul. “Greenwood” provides an apt escape. Enjoy.