Cover Image: Under the Tulip Tree

Under the Tulip Tree

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Member Reviews

Lorena’s father bank president, had a comfortable lifestyle and was well received in social circles before the market took a dive. Lorena Leland and her family were forever changed by the stock market crash in 1929. Little did Lorena know that taking a job with the FWP (Federal Writers’ Project) would rock her world even more than it had in the last seven years of the Great Depression. 

It was remarkable to find out what the Federal Writer’s Project was and how the author based her narrative on it. It was astounding to read that the President deemed slaves’ stories were important to preserve for future generations. I was fascinated to learn about history through Lorena’s (nicknamed Rena) eyes as she meets 101-year-old Frankie Washington, born a slave and has seen a lot in her 101 years.

Both women were facing their fears Rena Leland, going to a scary part of town to interview a black woman in her home. Frankie Washington had to trust a white woman, welcome her inside and divulge horrific things she had not thought about for years. Could she share these events? Would this woman write what Frankie says or would they change it when things get to hard to hear? 

Rena sits down next to Frankie. She is stunned by her courage and trust to share heartaches, lessons, and joys intertwined in hard-tragic times. Frankie had been prompted by the Lord to open her home to Rena, make her feel welcome, as she shared, she let God do the rest.

These women become fast friends and Rena desired to hear more of Frankie’s story. She could not just ask the scripted few questions and go onto the next person. Rena had to know it all. I was on the end of my seat wanting to know it all too. 

I liked what the author says in her note to readers, “I first learned of the slave narratives, as they’re called, while researching slavery in Texas. Drawn to the word-for-word and often heart-wrenching telling of life in bondage, I wanted to learn more about the narratives and how they came about.”

The author weaves an incredible story that has you hearing Frankie’s story at the feet of these two women. The author says…”My hope is that Frankie and Rena’s story of friendship, love, and forgiveness honors those whose lives now fill the pages of history.”

Oh, I was blown away by the depth of this story, it’s unforgettable characters, its surprises and the natural spiritual thread. This story would work well for your next book club pick. It is a rich story that you’ll be thinking about long after you close the book. This is the first book I’ve read by this author it won’t be the last.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog www.bookfun.org
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I’m going to keep this review short and sweet. 

A huge thank you to Tyndale House and NetGalley for my advanced copy of this wonderful book. 

I really liked Under the Tulip Tree. I feel as though it is very well written and the story flowed nicely. It read fast and the pacing was perfect. None of the scenes or events in this book dragged for me at all.

Like a lot of historical fiction that I read it was formatted with a dual timeline and dual perspectives. I was equally invested in the present day ( 1930s ) timeline and the past ( 1860s ) . 

This book deals heavily with slavery which I have read numerous novels pertaining to the subject and time period but it is set in Nashville. When I think of the civil war and slavery my mind automatically goes to the southern states along the East Coast. I haven’t given much thought to Texas or Tennessee.  I’m glad to have learned a bit more about the events during and after the war in that area. 

Under the Tulip Tree is Christian Historical Fiction and I really appreciated some of the themes it presented. Forgiveness was a big one and finding it within your heart to make peace with God and those around you that have hurt you in the past. That being said- this book can be read by anyone. There is scripture and Christian principles but it is well written and not overly “preachy”. 

I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.
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There has never been a book that speaks to the healing that needs to come in this particular time of history as Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee.   On Lorena Leland's sixteenth birthday, the world as she knew it came to an end with the stock market crash.  In the following years, Lorena worked at the newspaper until there just wasn't a place for her there anymore.  Her former editor showed her a letter stating that the Works Progress Administration (WPA) wanted writers for the Federal Writers Program (FWP) to interview former slaves and write down their stories.  
The first person on Lorena's list is Frankie Washington, a former slave who had reached the ripe old age of 101.  She remembers more about being a slave because that is how she grew up.  As Frankie tells her story, Lorena becomes emotionally bonded to Frankie, and outraged at the treatment the blacks (Negroes, as they were called then) received simply because of the color of their skin.  

I've never read a book by Michelle, but this one is a great introduction to her writing.  Her characters are entirely believable: some are likable, some are not, but the reader needs to feel the gamut of emotions toward the characters to get a full feeling for the book.  Her settings are spot on for the times and the places.  Her research is thorough and well-presented. According to her after-notes, there was a project to write down the slave stories and they are housed in the National Archives. 

It is a five star book with two thumbs up and a story written down to never be forgotten. 

Tyndale House and NetGalley.com provided the copy I read for this review.  All opinions expressed are solely my own.
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Rena Leland, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a prominent banker in Nashville is ready to celebrate with an elaborate sixteenth birthday party. Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 not only effects her party, but her chance of pursuing the writing career she is looking forward to.

Seven years later Rena’s father, who is without a job, is drinking and her sister has made some bad choices and is unhappily married with children. Rena and her mother are left trying to hold the family together financially and mentally. The problem is that the two don’t quite see eye-to-eye.

Since Rena can’t land the job she desires, she accepts a position interviewing former slaves for Roosevelt’s Federal Writers’ Project. (A federal government project in the U.S. created to provide jobs for out-of-work writers during the Great Depression.)

It is working on this project that Rena meets 101-year-old Frankie Washington.

I was captivated by this story and the various ways the Great Depression affected people. Rena’s family, a higher class white family, though poor still feels it’s extremely important to keep up pretenses. So when they learn that their daughter is going to a place where it isn’t acceptable to be seen, they are appalled. After all, being observed heading to Hell’s Half Acre is apt to cause tongues to wag. But that’s where Rena has to go to conduct her interviews.

Then intertwined is the interview with Frankie. The story she shares is told in smaller print. The two stories blend seamlessly and easily captured my attention.

As Frankie reveals her life as a slave, Rena is aghast at the things she has endured. Though Rena thought she understood slavery and the Civil War, she is learning quite the opposite. In fact, it raises questions that she will need to work through.

The characters in Under the Tulip Tree felt so real. Their emotions were sincere and believable to the point that I could visualize the story as it unfolded.

What Concerned Me
Nothing.

What I Liked
I suppose this might be embarrassing to admit, but this book helped me realize how many gave their lives to stop slavery. Sometimes it feels like the entire USA is blamed, yet even then many were willing to fight for the release of slaves. Of course, I knew that, but this story brings out so much. It is beautiful. The writing kept calling for me to read more and more.    

Trust me, these characters will win you over, especially Frankie.

I received a complimentary ARC from the publisher through NetGalley, and this review is only my opinion.
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Lorena (Rena) Leland's family has lost everything during the depression.  A matter of fact, it was Lorena's 16'th birthday that the crash took place.  She never got her celebration and her birthday has since been marked with the tragic events that changed the course of her once wealthy families life.  

Fast forward a few years, her family is still struggling, barely making ends meet.  Rena is an out of work reporter.  President Roosevelt has created the Federal Writer's Project for out of work writers and Rena gets a job working for the government.  Her assignment is to interview former slaves as a way to preserve their stories and history.  

Rena does not expect her life to be changed through these interviews, but when she meets Frances (Frankie) Washington, a 101 year old former slave, Rena's life is forever changed.  Rena's family is less than thrilled about her new job and she is beginning to see that racism is still a part of her world.  

The story jumps between Rena's present day life and 70 years prior as Frankie shares her story.  

It has been a while since a book had such a big effect on me.  I stayed up all night reading because I couldn't stop and tears were shed.  It is so beautifully written and at such a time where we are dealing with high racial tensions in our own world, this was a timely read.  

I was not aware of President Roosevelt's efforts to do this and I enjoyed learning that bit of history!  That is one thing I always enjoy from a historical fiction read.   I love when I am able to gain knowledge of real historical events.

 It also shares a great message of God's love and forgiveness.  I really can't recommend this book enough!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this amazing book.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Fascinating story about the Federal Writer's Program created by President Roosevelt to obtain personal narratives of former slaves. Rena's eyes are opened when she is hired by the program and interviews Frankie, a 101 year old former slave. This amazing story is carefully crafted to hold the reader's attention throughout. Heartwarming and authentic. Highly recommended!
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DNF at 30%. There is a lack of likeable characters. The tension with the mother is so unpleasant and the build up to Frankie's story was underwhelming. Reading the first portion with Frankie made me feel uncomfortable-like I was being manipulated to feel awful simply for the sake of feeling awful. Where is the depth and characterization? Too much time spent on minor characters and not enough on the important ones.
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I enjoyed this book, and how parts were told in first-person flashbacks from Frankie's life as a slave. Transitions were smooth. I didn't know much about slave narratives prior to this book, and I'm interested in learning more. Parts of this were heartbreaking, but it was thoroughly engaging.
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16-year-old Lorena Leland came from a wealthy family that lost it all during the great depression.  Her mother was concerned about saving face with their society friends, offering a glimpse into what life might have been for someone that suddenly had to learn how to do without.  Lorena was able to get a job through the Federal Writer's Project interviewing former slaves.  

When we read about Frankie's life as a slave the story is told in first-person flashbacks. The switch from the current day to 70 years prior was handled smoothly.  The characters were developed well and the story left me wanting to learn more about the slave narratives.  But more than that, Lorena showed how important it is to listen even when the subject becomes uncomfortable and Frankie learned to trust Lorena enough to share her story in tragic detail.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.
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UNDER THE TULIP TREE by MICHELLE SHOCKLEE is a book that will really stay with you. It is an inspiring story of incredible courage in horrific circumstances, of faith, forgiveness, redemption, love and friendship. Not only do we see the awakening of Frankie Washington's strong faith in God, but we see the influence she has on others.
Lorena Leland's life changed drastically on her sixteenth birthday, the 29th October 1929. with the stock market crash. Seven years later, no longer employed at the Nashville Banner, she applies to the Federal Writer's Project to interview former slaves. When she meets the 101 year old Frankie and hears her story, it is not only a shock to hear things that were not in her school history books, but it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As Rena encourages Frankie to tell her story in her own words, she and her co-worker Alden Norwood, are drawn into the old lady's life, spending quality time with her in her little house in Hell's Half Acre.
We also see the effect that her job and life changing friendship with Frankie has on Rena's family. It is truly a story in which we see God changing what the devil meant for harm into something beautiful. (Romans 8:28) I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
I was given an ARC copy of the book by NetGalley from Tyndale House Publishers. The opinions in this review are completely my own.
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I know novels are in the works for a couple years once they hit the publishers. It can be years of work before that by the author, but this book is for such a time as this. A split time book that is a clash of two families and times.  Rena always dreamed of being a writer, the depression has changed all her plans until the government offers her a chance to interview formers slaves.

As Frankie’s story unfolds, arena finds her drawn to her more and more. But her two very different worlds are going to collide in more ways than one.

Well written, with characters and storylines that will capture the reader’s imagination. I found my self reading well into the night with this book. Well done Michelle Shockley. I am looking forward to your next book.
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Under the Tulip Tree shares the tales of Lorena and Frankie.  Lorena's once prosperous family takes a financial fall during the Great Depression, leading Lorena to accept a Federal Writers' Project job to interview former slaves.  Lorena knew little about slavery, and was uncomfortable with the interviews because her family owned slaves and she has lived a sheltered life. 

Frankie, 101 years old, shares her life story as a former slave.  Frankie has endured many hardships and heartbreaks, and her experience awakens Lorena's awareness of slavery and the racial divide.

As Frankie's stories progress throughout the book, Lorena's understanding of slavery grows and a journey of faith transpires with both women's experiences.
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