The Family Tree, by Ilsa Evans

Dear Dad, I’m excited. I’m very excited. Which has made me realise that I haven’t been really excited about anything for a long time. It feels almost clumsy! What frustrates me, though, is that if I had started writing this a year ago, I could have just come to you for the information, but I’ve left it too late. Typical. Or maybe it would never have occurred to me then? Anyway, I still haven’t decided how to write it – as a pseudo-memoir? A tragic romance? A mystery?

An old saying suggests that everybody has a book in them, but for Kate Painter the desire to write a book has been a lifelong one. She’s always intended to write a book, but life has got in the way. She’s a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance editor – and she’s so busy doing things for everyone else that she never gets the time to do them for herself. Now, though, as she grieves the death of her father, an opportunity arises. Her cousin Angie decides to let her spare bedroom – and suddenly Kate sees a chance to get some space for herself, so that she can give herself the time to write that book. Moving in with Angie is hard – she is leaving behind her husband, three children and grand daughter – but writing the book proves even harder. What will she write about – and will it be good enough anyway?

The Family Tree is a story about family and about self. In the process of researching her family background as the basis of her proposed book, Kate has to confront much about the past that she finds unpalatable. At the same time, she has to also confront the events of the previous year, and the state of her relationship with her husband and children. She may not write a bestselling novel, but as she does write she finds a story emerging which will help her and her family.

This is a touching and absorbing read, with Kate a likeable main character, whose growth the reader can enjoy watching, as the mysteries of her past are unlocked.

The Family Tree, by Ilsa Evans
Pan Macmillan, 2009