Debut author Naseem Rakha has penned a touching albeit sad story of a family riven by grief. Her characters are hobbled, not crippled physically but emotionally, sickened by hatred, isolated by an inability to communicate, and driven to find reason for the inexplicable.
Our story opens in 2004 when Tad Mason , Superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary, receives notice that after 19 years an execution date has been set for Daniel Robbin. The condemned man had been but 19-years-old himself when he was found guilty of beating and then shooting a 15-year-old boy, Shep Stanley, during an attempted home robbery.
Now, after all this time Robbin has stopped his appeals and it fell to Mason to make sure the execution is carried out properly and promptly. He'd never been in charge of what he referred to as a "procedure" before, and he has no stomach for it. However, it is his job and his career depends upon it being done correctly.
Flashback to the fall of 1983 when Nate Stanley arrives home to tell his wife, Irene, that he has accepted a better job as deputy sheriff in the tiny town of Blaine, Oregon. The family which also consists of their two children, Bliss and Shep, will be relocating immediately. Irene does not want to leave the won in which she grew up, her family and lifelong friends, but she acquiesces and the family moves.
They seem to be adjusting well to their new life when Shep is shot, killed in the family home. Shep's death was inconceivable to her, "There was no way she would let her boy die. He was her life, her breath, her son.....A mother does not let her son die." But Shep is gone.
Mourning may take many forms. Nate becomes stone, quiet, silent. Irene finds release in alcohol and an ever growing hatred for her son's killer. Bliss is left very much to her own resources. Impervious to the pleas of her sister, Carol, to pull herself together Irene sinks lower until she hits rock bottom. It is years later after a heated confrontation with Bliss that she realizes what she has become, and she tries to help herself by writing a letter to Daniel in which she offers forgiveness.
For this reader that is at the heart of Rakha's story - forgiveness. At one point Irene asks Superintendent Mason if he believes in forgiveness. His answer is, "I've heard of it." All of us have and The Crying Tree may cause many of us to redefine forgiveness in our own lives.