Cover image for Treeborne
Title:
Treeborne
Author:
Johnson, Caleb (Caleb Rick), author.
ISBN:
9781250169082
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
308 pages ; 22 cm
Abstract:
"Wedged between the bluffs and the river for which it's named, there's a small and all-but-forgotten town. Janie Treeborne lives on an orchard at the edge of Elberta, Alabama, and in time, she has become its keeper. A place where conquistadors once walked, and where the peaches they left behind now grow, Elberta has seen fierce battles, violent storms, and frantic change--and when the town is once again threatened from without, Janie realizes it won't withstand much more. So she tells the story of its people: of Hugh, her granddaddy, determined to preserve Elberta's legacy through his art; of his wife Maybelle, who shook the town when she became its first female postmaster, then again when she died a sudden and mysterious death; of her lover Lee Malone, a black orchardist and musician harvesting from a land where he is less than welcome; of the local legend Ricky Birdsong, who scored touchdown after touchdown, only to run headlong into tragedy; of the time Janie herself kidnapped her own Hollywood-obsessed aunt and tore the wrong people apart. As the world closes in on Elberta, Alabama--a fictional land equal parts Macon and Macondo--Caleb Johnson's debut novel lifts the veil and offers one last glimpse. Treeborne is both a celebration and a reminder: of the difficulty of untangling the past from the future, and of how home is a story as much as a place"-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

"I can't remember the last time I read a book I wish so much I'd written. Treeborne is beautiful, and mythic in ways I would never have been able to imagine...I can't say enough about this book."--Daniel Wallace, national bestselling author of Extraordinary Adventures and Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions

An Honorable Mention for the Southern Book Prize

One of Southern Living' s "Best New Books Coming Out Summer 2018" and one of Library Journal 's "Books to Get Now"

Janie Treeborne lives on an orchard at the edge of Elberta, Alabama, and in time, she has become its keeper. A place where conquistadors once walked, and where the peaches they left behind now grow, Elberta has seen fierce battles, violent storms, and frantic change--and when the town is once again threatened from without, Janie realizes it won't withstand much more. So she tells the story of its people: of Hugh, her granddaddy, determined to preserve Elberta's legacy at any cost; of his wife, Maybelle, the postmaster, whose sudden death throws the town into chaos; of her lover, Lee Malone, a black orchardist harvesting from a land where he is less than welcome; of the time when Janie kidnapped her own Hollywood-obsessed aunt and tore the wrong people apart.

As the world closes in on Elberta, Caleb Johnson's debut novel lifts the veil and offers one last glimpse. Treeborne is a celebration and a reminder: of how the past gets mixed up in thoughts of the future; of how home is a story as much as a place.


Author Notes

CALEB JOHNSON is the author of the novel Treeborne . He grew up in Arley, AL, studied journalism at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and earned an MFA from the University of Wyoming. Johnson has worked as a newspaper reporter, a janitor and a whole-animal butcher, among other jobs. He has been awarded a Jentel Writing Residency and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship in fiction to the Sewanee Writers' Conference. He lives with his wife, Irina, and their dog, Hugo, in Valle Crucis, NC, where he teaches at Appalachian State University while working on his next novel.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Using language rich as mulch, debut author Johnson tells the superb saga of three generations of Treebornes, who live near the town of Elberta in the southern reaches of Georgia. Janie Treeborne narrates much of the story, tripping through time beginning with the days of her grandaddy Hugh, forced by circumstance to join the Authority, behemoth builder of a modern dam. So as not to forget how things once were, Hugh becomes a maker of a strange art he calls "assemblies," figures made of mud, spiders' webs, and gears. His wife is Janie's beloved MawMaw, the postmaster Maybelle; she is in love with Lee Malone, the "man with the blue arms" who sings like an angel and tends orchards as old as the conquistador Hernando DeSoto. When Janie's aunt and uncle threaten to sell off and clear the ancient forest once home to her beloved grandparents, Janie and her friends kidnap her aunt to try to stop them, and she goes on the lam in the company of a magical doll made of dirt. Johnson's pervasive use of the colloquial, even when narrating, never gets irritating. Metaphors abound, and it isn't a coincidence the Treebornes' town shares a person's name; the whole place is as alive as if it walked on two feet. Sentence by loamy sentence, this gifted author digs up corpses and upends trees to create a place laden with magic and memory. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Janie Treeborne was just a girl when the trouble happened, right after the Hernando de Soto Peach Days Festival during the summer of 1958. But she would turn out to play a central role in the disappearance and return of her aunt Tammy in the weeks that followed. In his debut novel, Johnson has conjured a stunning account of the Treeborne family of Elberta, Alabama, creating an immersive sense of both time and place as he probes the memories and resentments that linger among the town's residents over the course of decades. Tammy disappears only a short time after her mother, Maybelle, a white woman, was found dead in the woods on her 700-acre peach orchard. Suspicion quickly turns to Lee Malone, a black man who had a close friendship and more with Maybelle. The crises bring the ugliness simmering under the surface of the town to a boil, with repercussions that echo through the years that follow. Mysteries swarm around the Treebornes, all the way back to Janie's grandfather, a self-taught artist whose work building the dam near Elberta at the start of the Great Depression leads to a secret that he and Maybelle would bury together. Majestic in scope, jam-packed with revelations and a touch of the fantastical, Treeborne is an enthralling story about what binds people together and breaks them apart.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

DEBUT Shifting between the 1920s and contemporary times, Johnson's first novel peels back layers in the lives of three generations of the Treeborne family of dying Elberta, AL. Elderly Janie Treeborne, who's being interviewed by a young man, wants to record her life story. Her 700-acre family homestead, the Seven, will soon disappear underwater because the Hernando de Soto Dam is failing. Janie at first refuses to relocate. Her granddaddy Hugh worked on the dam in 1929 but secretly moved coffins to the Treeborne woods from an overlooked cemetery soon to be flooded. With Hugh's assemblies of mud, colored glass, and found objects, the Seven becomes a tourist attraction. His widow, Maybelle, dies suddenly, which throws suspicion on her lover, Lee Malone, a black orchardist never quite welcome in Elberta. As a child, Janie is bored and lonely, and her mischief extends to kidnapping her Hollywood-obsessed Aunt Tammy, a scheme that backfires horribly. Other quirky residents richly enhance Janie's tales, and through their stories, the full range of Elberta's offbeat history unfolds. -VERDICT Johnson's gem of a novel tells of a place and its people so vivid and real that readers won't want their stories to end.-Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.