The Trees Beneath Usby Darren R. Leo Published 15 Jun 2015
|The Trees Beneath Us.pdf|
|Publisher||Stark House Press|
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"The Trees Beneath Us" Reviews
*I received an advance copy of this book for an honest review*
This could possibly be one of the finest works of fiction I have ever read. I laughed, I cried, and I felt the protagonists pain. I felt like I was on the hike with him, and I so wanted to help. The authors has a gift for description. An amazing debut work by the author, I will recommend this book over and over.
A man named Finn goes for a walk, a really…long…walk; a hike actually, along a fifteen-hundred mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. As stories go, one might think it a yawner of a novel, but in the superbly capable hands of a master storyteller like Darren R Leo, it becomes a journey, not just of time and distance, but one that reaches into the soul. Leo leads a sojourn to the headwaters of emotion and treats us to the purest form of contemplative reflection on life and joy and heartache.
Like the switchbacks of a trail into the mountains, the book juxtaposes life along the path with snippets of the one left behind; the serenity of the forests, the perfect backdrop to sort out the experience of a lifetime in consideration of the question: “what do you do when you’re done living before your life is over?”
Readers who have suffered forms of clinical depression and anxiety, will instantly relate to Finn. Readers fortunate enough not to have suffered forms of clinical depression and anxiety, will have the opportunity to experience that cloud of darkness, which is the great gift writing such as this offers.
It’s hard to imagine how this book has not risen to the top of an Oprah booklist, or missed landing on the shortlist for any number of prestigious book awards. It’s said the true success of a book can be measured by how long the story will stay with you after reading the last page. This one might alter your DNA.
Darren R. Leo is no friend of mine -- I've heard through the grapevine that he chews with his mouth open and watches far too much "Supernatural" and "Charmed" -- but he's written a helluva book. I picked it up at Gibson's in Concord the other day, based on a recommendation. As dark and green as the woods themselves, "The Trees Beneath Us" is right up there with Krakauer's "Into the Wild" as an exploration of our animal need for the wild and solitude in times of pain. Leo writes powerfully and painfully, with a grave-digger's sensibility and dark humor. Thoreau wrote, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately," but Leo's book amends that thought. We go to the woods because we want to live instinctually, without the trappings and noise that might blot out the messages that come from within. We go to the woods to heal, and, if that's not possible, to disappear. Thanks for writing this. Mr. Leo. Now go write something else I can read.
I love this book! Inspiring and uplifting! 10 stars out of 5.
It is different to call a book with an underlying theme of grief and illness inspiring but along with this theme there is humor and bravery and quite a cast of quirky characters. Being a section hiker I can relate to the people you meet on the trail. I loved the perspective of the through hiker immensely. I loved the definition of tribe and how all the characters responded to each other and their needs. I read this book straight through and went back to page 1 and read again. I had to keep looking at the back cover to remind myself that it is fiction. I would read this author again without hesitation. A good read!
This is a most unusual book. It is as much memoir as it is fiction, for one thing.
The introduction includes this quote from Thoreau: “If you are ready to leave father and other, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man: then you are ready for a walk.” The author later says “Would Thoreau be admired if he never left Walden Pond?”
The protagonist, Finn, sees himself thusly: “Stubbornness had long been described as one of my greatest attributes or flaws.” As did the author, Finn decides to hike the Appalachian Trail. Early in his trek, he says: “I was reacquainting with the wilderness like running into an old girlfriend I had not seen in years… Thousands of people hiked big chunks of the trail every year. A few hundred would walk its entirety. Some large number of people with packs crossed that highway and disappeared through the cut. Each had a purpose. Some had dreams. All had reasons.” Finn’s reason appears to be contemplation of his life till then, and the natural life around him brings him “occasional moments of clarity and insights.” He is working through grief, love and loss, having lost his job, his health, and his son.
A lapsed Catholic, 44 years old, with very mixed feelings about the deity and life itself, Finn has been diagnosed as suffering from depression, bipolar, at times suicidal; he has an ex-wife, what he describes as three or four children, and is living with a woman who loves him and who he loves, Penelope, or Penny, who he refers to as his BSW (beautiful sunny woman). His descriptions of the natural world are gorgeous, e.g., he sees small yellow butterflies hovering “like lemon colored clouds” as well as an “achingly beautiful butterfly that started bright sky blue and faded to deep inky darkness . . . like twilight captured on a wing.”
On his journey, which goes on for almost 1,500 miles, over a period of months, during most of which he does not contact any of his family members, he reflects on his past. A running motif seems to be “bad news doesn’t travel through trees.”
This is a book which will stay with the reader long after the last page has been read, and it is recommended.
"Bad news doesn't travel through trees."
So says the narrator of this potent tale.
Tracking the attempts of Finn, the narrator, to find in nature the answers for personal meaning and self-redemption after a series of disappointments and devastating losses, Leo's debut novel was inspired by his own travels along the Appalachian Trail. Through Its meditations on trail life--lessons on foraging, how to sleep and survive outside--Finn attempts to escape the trappings and reminders of his chaotic and heartbreaking life. Along the way, Finn meets and forms reluctant friendships with other lost souls of the trail--Merlin, Frog, and Three Miles, among others--which provide the unstated observations that no matter how much you try to escape, you can't escape yourself. And sometimes those who seem to be the most giving, including the forest and earth, are those who have lost the most. The book doubles as an ode to the restorative powers of nature and reminds us that change happens at a glacial pace.
If nothing else, this novel will make you want to read (reread) The Odyssey, and take up hiking. Perhaps you won't hike the Appalachian Trail as Finn and the author did, but you'll want to take a walk in the wilderness or even in your neighborhood.
And any book that can get us outside more often is definitely worth reading.