Cover Image: The Island of Missing Trees

The Island of Missing Trees

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

he Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak. Published in 2021. Thank you to Net Galley @netgalley for letting me read a digital ARC of this book.
I read 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds In This Strange World a few months ago and loved it, so I was eager to The Island of Missing Trees. I really loved the actual story - something of a Romeo and Juliet type narrative about a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot. The novel explores themes of immigration and secrets and loss, as the narrative moves around between Cyprus in the 1970s and London in the 2010s.
However, I did really struggle with the portions that were narrated by a fig tree. I have read a few other reviews and it seems this narrative device was quite polarizing. On one side are readers that found the fig tree to be a charming storyteller, but I am in the camp that found it to distract from the parts of the story I was more interested in.
#theislandofmissingtrees #elifshafak #netgalley #2021reading #2021books #recommendedread #bookpost #bookreview
Was this review helpful?
My first book by Elif Shafak and I very much enjoyed it. This is my second book this year, coincidentally, that focused on this time in history and the island of Cyprus. This book did not go into the details of the conflict like the other book did, so I was happy to have read that one first to better understand what was happening in Cyprus for these characters and their lives on the the island. You can certainly read this one without knowing as much but I think it adds to the story to know a bit more of the history than we get here. Or this may be a good introduction to that time in history spurring you to find out more.

I enjoyed the narration coming from the Fig Tree. I thought it added so much to the story, in so many ways, including a wonderful science lesson wrapped up in a story. The ending narration by the Fig Tree was beautiful and my favorite part of the story.

I never connected fully with the characters and as it was a character-driven story, I would have liked to have felt more connection with them.

Overall, a beautiful story with lots of interesting facets. It's evident that the author researched lots and cared deeply for this story. I plan on reading more books from Shafak in the future.
Was this review helpful?
This beautifully written novel is both captivating and moving.  The reader is transported back and forth in time (1974-2010’s) between London and Cyprus.  Kostas, a Greek Cypriot and Defne, a Turkish Cypriot share a young and forbidden love just as civil war ensues.  As the story unfolds, the realities of war and the resulting loss, grief and long lasting trauma are revealed with depth and sensitivity. An unusual and surprisingly highly effective aspect of the story is that part of it is narrated by a fig tree and all it witnessed.  This uniquely highlights that humanity and nature are interconnected. A multi- layered, transportive read that explores belonging, identity, roots, love, trauma, nature and renewal in a discerning yet hopeful manner.  Don’t miss this gem, it will stay with you.
Thanks to NetGalley who provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This was my first book by Elif Shafak and I've been wanting to read something by her for quite a while. It was so well written and I really enjoyed it.  I also learned so much about Cyprus, admittedly I didn't know much about the civil war there so I appreciated that aspect. It was heartbreaking. 
The book is narrated in part by a tree, and it seems that reviewers are split on this. I liked it and I enjoyed the tree's chapters. It allowed for so much more information on the natural world to be brought in, information about trees, and also an interesting perspective on humans (not as the center of the universe).
I look forward to reading more books by her.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this story. Alternating chapters are told from the perspective of a beloved fig tree.  So many layers and beautiful writing. Characters are easy to like and well drawn. The deaths of Turks and Greeks on Cypros Island and the history was unknown to me. Highly recommend.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
The Island of Missing Trees is a well-constructed and moving tale of love and history - the love between a man and a woman, a parent and a child, humans and plants and animals, living things and places.  There are many key characters and all have an important part in the tale.
The story centers around 16-year old Ada, who experiences a rather strange moment at school just before the holiday break.  Ada lives in London with her father; her mother died earlier that year, and both of them are silently and separately dealing with their grief.
Ada's parents met and fell in love as teenagers in Cyprus, but as her mother was from the Turkish side and her father from the Greek, they were pulled apart by war and family.  The tale of their love is beautifully built and includes other people who help along the way, as well as a fig tree who is possibly the true main character in the story. 
This book is a reminder that there is much beauty and care and hope surrounding us all, along with the pain and horror that often makes up everyday life.
Thank you to NetGally and to the publisher for an early review copy.
Was this review helpful?
At about 84% The Island of Missing Trees disappeared from my phone (downloaded Oct 23, 2021, achieve date Oct 31, 2021, publish date Nov 2, 2021, purged from phone Nov 12, 2021).  Now achieved by NetGalley and no longer available. Sigh.

I never became really attached to any of the characters. Recently listened to the interview with Kristen Hannah at the end of the Four Winds audiobook; Ms. Hannah said that good books need conflict. There is opportunity for conflict in The Island of Missing Trees (as there is a teenager), but I didn't feel a sense of conclict as much of the book is consumed with recounting the past (and also that you know from the beginning that the mother/Delfie has died).

I think that I would have "gotten into" the book more if story with Ada had been a bit stronger.

Part of the story was from the point of view of a Fig Tree.  An interesting and unique perspective.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author Elif Shafak and the publisher  Bloomsbury USA for the opportunity to review 84% of the advance read copy in exchange for an honest review.

Oh well. If I can get from a library, I’ll probably finish. If not, I’m not going to loose any sleep.
Was this review helpful?
This is one of my top ten reads of 2021. Yes, because it’s historical fiction, yes, it’s about Cyprus, yes it’s about Turkish and Greek cultures, yes, the writing was beautiful, but more than anything else it was the Fig Tree that sealed my love of this book - oh, how I love thee Fig Tree! I won’t say more than that as I don’t want to spoil it for others. Suffice it to say Shafak does a phenomenal job as she unfolds the story of Defne, a Turkish Cypriot and Kostas, a Greek Cypriot set against the backdrop of Cyprus’ tumultuous history and strife, which continues today. The story is set in the 1970s, 2000s, and late 2010s with Cyprus and the U.K. as settings. This is beautifully accomplished novel by Elif Shafak. As she weaves the story of Defne and Kostas, Shafak interconnects  history, love, culture, conflict, nature, and the undeniable yearning and love of one’s motherland. Those strains are ever present throughout the book, which bring an  elegiac undercurrent that heightens the senses and connects the reader with the characters, including the Fig Tree. The impacts of one’s formative years and the memories of where you grew up are always with you no matter your age, time, and place, and Defne and Kostas are undoubtedly shaped by those years. This book is so much more than an historical fiction. Its depth, breadth, and connectedness to both the human spirit and to nature make it an excellent read and I would highly recommend it. I also enjoyed writing style very much - it is warm and lovely, especially when describing nature. A definite 5-star book. Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
I'm obsessed with magical realism, and this was definitely right up my alley. Shafak's novel follows the story of a young couple in love in war-torn Cyprus in the 1970s and their teenage daughter being raised in 2000s London. The true beauty of this novel is that there are sections torn from the perspective of the fig tree (I know it sounds weird!) that makes its way from Cyprus to England with the family.

There were so many things to love about this book - the magical culture of the island, the insight into what happens when war takes over and people are left behind, how a young girl deals with grief. I absolutely loved the different perspectives and how the timeline skipped back and forth to reveal more details about the lives of the characters. The writing style is really mellifluous and truthful.

The only drawback for me was that the pacing was a little off - some parts of the book felt a tad slow even when the events described were exciting or important.

Overall, though, this book was creative and heartfelt. I loved the characters and was sad when the book was over!
Was this review helpful?
"People on both sides of the island suffered- and people on both sides would hate it if you said it out loud" "Why" "Because the past is a dark, distorted mirror. You look at it, you only see your own pain." 

I don't know how objective I can be in my review. I love Elif Shafak, I 've read my first book of hers "Mahrem- The Gaze" in college almost 20 years ago. When I first read the synopsis of the book I felt nervous because Cyprus is a controversial subject to write about. There is always a risk of upsetting one side or another. But Elif managed to write a beautiful and moving story about two star-crossed lovers from different ethnicity and religions and use the island as a background in such a magical way. As her author's note indicated "it is all fiction with a mixture of wonder, dreams, love and sorrow". But Shafak also provides a compassionate account of the partition of the Island.  At its core this is a story of love, loss, healing, identity, belonging and nature,  

Ada is the daughter of Kostas and Defne.  Respectively Greek and Turkish Cypriots, who have decided to leave their pasts behind and start anew in London. In 1974 right before the partition Kostas and Defne fall in love. They have to keep their relationship a secret. The only two people who are pulling for them are Yiorgos and Yusuf  (another Greek-Turkish couple) who ran the Happy Fig Tavern. The taverna gets its name from a fig tree planted in the center.

One of the narrator of the story is this melancholic fig tree. There is magical realism here. To be honest, in the the first few "Fig Tree" chapters I had trouble with how lyrical the storytelling was. Then I got used to it and really it is where her storytelling shines. 

The way Elif told the story through a fig tree, which had been carried all the way from Nicosia to London, is just brilliant. The tree hears and sees everything happening in the tavern but that is not his only source of information. She tells us the stories she heard from all the animals and insects she seduced with her ripe fruits. Droves of birds, bats, bees, ants, butterflies, mice... There is also so much love for nature and eco-consciousness in this book, 

All the little Turkish and  Greek words and phrases, the terms of endearment, sprinkled here and there made my heart happy. The parts where Elif showed the similarities in their customs, superstitions like the blue glass for evil eye and showing respect for a piece bread fallen on the pavement (for Turks it is picking up and touching it to their foreheads with reverence and for the Greeks, taking the slice and making the cross , putting their hands over their hearts) showed once again how much alike these communities are. This is an ongoing point of conversation between me and my Greek friend. 

This is a beautiful book written with gorgeous prose that I'll be recommending everyone.
Was this review helpful?
What an interesting story!  I honestly can’t think of anything to compare this to - it is that unique. It alternates timelines and locations exploring a forbidden relationship between a Greek and a Turk in the 70s to present day London. There is a love story, loss, cultural divisions, and at the very center of the story: a tree. The tree is one of the narrators in this beautiful, magical story.  This is the current pick for the Reese Witherspoon book club 

“Maybe we give other names to grief because we are too scared to call it by its name.”
Was this review helpful?
Well, this book was... different. Certainly some aspects - one of the narrators being a tree, for example - took some getting used to. I eventually got on board with the tree as a narrator, although at times some of the metaphors felt too heavy-handed. (For example, the traumas that plants endure compared to those that humans experience.) Overall though I liked the back-and-forth narrative style that alternated between the human characters and the fig tree, and how we got nonfiction-type information through the tree's narration. The author must have done a lot of research!

What frustrated me, though, was the way the author completely skipped the most interesting aspects of the story - the civil war in Cyprus! The best parts of this book were those that recounted Kostas' and Defne's love story in the 1970s. But suddenly we skip 25 years to them reuniting in the 2000s, completing skipping the meat of the conflict on the island, including everything Defne lived through. I was extremely disappointed not to get this part of the story! I also did not need so much of the setting of Ada in London in the 2010s, except keeping a bit of it to see the generational consequences of the conflict was important. Overall an ok read, but not one I enjoyed as much as Shafak's previous books.
Was this review helpful?
Elif Shafak does it again! I was completely moved by this book. It had me from page one and never let me go. If you love reading about found family or environmental issues this is a book you must pick up.
Was this review helpful?
The Island of Missing Trees was one of my very favorite novels this year. The story was very unique and unlike anything I have ever read. (I especially enjoyed the stories from the fig tree!) You know it’s great historical fiction, when you spend time googling to learn more once you finish the book. 

The story alternates timelines, which can be confusing in some books, but the author did such a good job transitioning between the stories. Also, the author’s imagery was some of the best I have ever read. I truly felt like I was apart of this story and I could visually see the island. I cannot wait to read more from this author!
Was this review helpful?
What a beautiful and moving book this is. Told in alternating narratives, one of which is a Fig Tree, you'll be swept away by this magical story of pain, loss, war, family, and most of all enduring love.

This was my first time reading a book by Elif Shafak, but it won't be my last. 

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafik is a beautiful story! After being in a bit of a reading slump, this story caught my attention and kept me wanting more! 

The storytelling by this author is so well done. I was able to sit down for extended periods of time to read this book. The words on the pages grabbed me and drew me in!  

This story is set in Cyprus and London with two different time periods. Ada is from London and is given an assignment to learn about her family’s past. However, she doesn’t know anything about it. This causes her to want to find out more information as she discovers who she really is and where she belongs. 

The fig tree’s narration is so heartwarming! It makes me want to talk to my Fiddle Leaf Fig and I’ve started thinking about all that my tree has witnessed (just like in the story). 

Im so thankful to the publisher and author for allowing me to have an ARC of this sweet story.

I highly recommend this book!
Was this review helpful?
𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐮𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐨𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐧.

The novel begins with the beautiful island of Cyprus ‘golden beaches and turquoise waters’, shadowed by a demarcation line. There is also a well, with a tragic story waiting to unfold, one of love that met with horror, a cruelty that time cannot hide forever. But we begin in the 2010s England, with a girl named Ada (Island) Kazantzakis, age sixteen. Ada’s mother Defne has passed away, leaving her alone with her eccentric father Kostas, an evolutionary ecologist and botanist who is far better with trees than people. She has little to no understanding of her parents past nor their lives on Cyprus and only a weak link to her relatives. With a Greek father and a Turkish mother, her looks stand out as foreign, but she is English, doesn’t even speak either of her parent’s language. She has never traveled to meet either side of the family nor has family ever visited them, not even for her beloved mother’s funeral. So much about her parents are a mystery, and how can she understand who she is without their history? Defne was her light, and now that she is gone, so much is dark. Her father has always seemed unsteady, fragile and Defne kept him centered. Ada knows only one thing, she cannot burden him with her sadness. She has buried her grief, but it will force its way to the surface, and in a humiliating scene in front of her peers.

Kostas is wrapped up in tending to a fig tree in their garden, and it is this beautiful fig that speaks to the reader. A descendant in a long line and an earthbound sentient being that understands the suffering of immigrants. If only Ada felt as connected as the fig, had a deeper understanding of how her parents arrived at the place they settled and made a family. She is a child born of division, her wound is now open for the world to see, and the exposure is unstoppable. It is when her Aunt Meryem, whom Ada is reluctant to accept, arrives that her mother’s history spills out and she begins connecting to her own roots. It is a story of forbidden love, and a special meeting place where burning hearts go to find shelter, happiness, and escape from violent reality. A place where Greeks, Turks, Armenians, UN soldiers, Maronites, and visitors break down barriers, share stories and become friends. This unique tavern is owned by two men who know all about division be it religion, love, family, country, culture or deeply guarded secrets. It is here that Kostas and Defne can tuck into their love openly. The men, Yiorgos and Yusuf, have created a place of celebration conceived for the purpose of triumph, joy, and small miracles. It touches many lives, and yet darkness is waiting to undo it all.

One cannot remain in a safe place, the world comes crashing in, decisions must be made and some are life or death. In choosing each other, Defne and Kostas have to promise to keep the weight of the past off their daughter’s shoulders. Naturally there are consequences, a child who has no story, no connection feels rootless, lost. She aches for her identity as much as she aches over the loss of her mother. It is a fate many face when leaving their homeland, particularly if they wish to cut ties with pain. You can reinvent yourself, but you can never fully discard the earlier selves, for we are formed by the places we have grown up in. How do we fit in with the people of our adopted country and what does the next generation make of the remnants of our past? At our core, humans long for their family history, for roots. This is such a sad story and yet overwhelming beautiful too. A fig tree as a symbol, rich in history- yes read it!

Publication Date: November 2, 2021

Bloomsbury USA
Was this review helpful?
Kostas who is Greek and Defne who is Turkish meet in Cypress and fall in love at a time when their relationship was not condoned and Cypress is on the verge of war. Later on we meet Ada their daughter who is struggling with death of Defne and just being a teenager in general.

This book told in alternate timelines tells a complex story of love, loss, war, addiction and identity to name a few. The writing is simply beautiful and I felt like I wanted to know this family and their struggles just a little more.

Note…this book did start a little slow for me, but I am personally glad I stuck with this one, because it was just one of the most beautiful stories I have read in a while. What happened in Cypress in the 1970’s is not something you read often about, so I was happy to read something a little more unique. Savor this one, it is sure to linger in the back of your mind a little longer than your typical story.

Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Yes part of this wonderful novel is narrated by a very observant fig tree but don't let that deter you. This moves back and forth in time to tell the story not only of a family but also the island of Cyprus.  It starts in 2010 with 16 year old Ada whose mother Defne died a year before leaving her with her father Kostas who is more engaged with trees than his daughter.  Kostas and Defne were the Romeo and Juliet of Cyprus when they met in 1974- a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot- and their story is the story of the island as well.  Beautifully written with terrific characters, this one will pull you in.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.  For fans of literary fiction.
Was this review helpful?
A lyrically written story filled with magical realism, about a couple’s relationship that began on the island of Cyprus. One is Greek, the other Turk, and the island is divided by those identities.  One other theme of this story is sexual orientation. Also, the biology woven through makes this a very interesting story, filled with new-to-me knowledge, beautiful scenery, and historical events that make this a fascinating read.
Was this review helpful?