Cover Image: The Island of Missing Trees

The Island of Missing Trees

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Member Reviews

This unique book jumps around in time and narrator, from 16 year old Ada in London in the present-ish, her parents Kostyra and Defne, on Cyprus in 1974 and the early 2000s, one of whom is a Greek Cypriot and one of whom is a Turkish Cypriot, when those two groups were very much enemies. Oh, and there is also the POV of a fig tree, which had been on Cyprus for more than 100 years before Kostyra brought a cutting of it to London to grow a new tree which still has the memories of the old tree.

I’ve read books with animal POVs, but this was definitely the first with a tree POV, and it was interesting how the author used the tree to tell us about Cyprus history, something I’m embarrassed to say I had no knowledge of but felt compelled to read more about as a result of this book.

This was definitely a slow starter but I got more and more into it as it went along, and the writing was just beautiful. I can also see why this was a Reese’s Book Club pick (in November 2021) because there’s a lot to talk about!
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The Island of Missing Trees, by Elif Shafak, tells the story about the people that live through the 1970's war in Cyprus between the Turks and Greeks, Christians and Muslims. The story shifts between several characters including Defne, a Turkish woman, Kostas, a Greek man, their daughter Ada and a fig tree.  What follows is a beautiful story of forbidden love and loss and how it spans generations. I absolutely loved this story and it will definitely be in my list of all time favorites.
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I'm so thankful for netgalley and the publisher for providing me with this book. It got lost in the shuffle for me until it was named to the longlist of the Women's Prize for Fiction. And, oh my gosh, how deserving!!!

Described as a “rich, magical book on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal”, this book is heartbreaking, magical, original, and beautifully written. Following two timelines: 1970s Cyprus during the civil war between Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims, it’s a story of the forbidden love of Kosta (Christian) and Defne (Muslim); and late 2010s London with the story of their confused and struggling teenage daughter Ada. And there’s narration by a fig tree 💚 that grows through a tavern in Cyprus and observes the young couple as well as the devastation of war, the disappearances and sorrows … and then a cutting is taken to London (the saga continues). Some question the idea of a fig tree as narrator, but I really appreciated and enjoyed it as a literary device. One of my two favourites from the longlist, this book definitely deserves a spot on the shortlist. And from the chatter on bookstagram, I think most other readers agree.

Spoiler Alert: It did make the shortlist and I feel like it is one of the strongest contenders to win the Women's Prize. We'll find out on June 15!!
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Elif Shafak is one of my favorite authors and this did not disappoint. She continues to knock it out of the park. I absolutely adored the writing, characters, and mysticism of this work.
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I love, love, loved this book. It was gorgeous and it seemed like every single line and word was chosen with care. I've already gifted this book to several friends and they've loved it too. Elif is absolutely incredible!
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DNF. Unfortunately, this was a book I started multiple times but could just not get into. I appreciate having the opportunity to read this book, it was just not a good fit for me as a reader. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my gifted review copy.
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A magical, mystical, unique story, unlike anything I've ever read before. Highly recommend it, and I'm looking forward to exploring Shafak's backlist soon. Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the digital arc.
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Shafak is just such a gorgeous writer, and this latest book of course does not disappoint. It is not a light read but it is so worthwhile.

Special kudos to the cover designer- this one is so beautiful.

Thank you so much to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy!
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I usually enjoy Elif Shafak but this might be my favorite, a love story from Cyprus but also a tree story from the point of view of a fig tree that has seen some things. I really noticed the writing this time around, how she almost crosses the line of purple prose but then turns the language in interesting ways.

This is my third book set in Cyprus in under a year and it's so disheartening how neighbors become enemies. At several points in this novel, characters won't identify people as Cypriot Turkish or Cypriot Greek, but rather as "from the island, like me."
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Like everything Elif Shafak writes this is beautiful.  The history of Cypress is fascinating and the love story between the two main characters is heart breaking. She explores the fact that sometimes grief and trauma cannot be overcome.
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So finally completed reading The Island of Missing Trees. A great story that speaks of love, loss, identity, and nature. These are the themes that I noticed and I loved reading about it. 

The book is set in  1974 in Cyprus. At this time, the country is in turmoil between the two religious groups.

 Kostas  and Defne are in love at this time. With all the turmoil, the only place safe for them is the tavern called The Happy Fig. 

Magically, this tree remembers everything that goes on in the tavern. It remembers, the secret meetings, the war details and everything else. 

The book then ,moves to present-day London and takes another new turn.. Worth a read with its beautifully woven tale. POignant and deep in every way. Read it slow to soak it in.
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I loved this. Such gorgeous, lyrical writing with a sprinkle of magical realism. It’s a forbidden love story set against the backdrop of the 1974 Cypriot civil  war, and present day London. The descriptions of the island were just gorgeous, and themes of nature, identify, trauma and renewal handled with such care. Narrated by the lovers, their daughter and surprisingly by a fig tree at the the center of the story, this sad story really captured my heart.
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4 stars

I think the overall theme and message of the story was beautiful and the writing was so lush and lyrical that I found myself so immersed in the story very quickly. When it comes to magical realism I find myself very picky and having to be in the right mood for it and this story did it so well that there wasn’t any time that I needed to adjust to it or put the book down and pick up on another day. I think Shafak did such a beautiful job at interweaving two histories and layering stories to create this one piece which I found myself truly lost in. I think this is a story where you want to go in knowing as little as possible so I won’t get too into the plot or any details like that, but I will say that I found the overall message and theme of the interconnectedness of humanity and nature to be a really beautiful thought especially when juxtaposing that with the ugliness and violence that is shown keeping us separated. Overall a very beautiful read that drug on a bit in the middle but was well worth the read.

ARC given by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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This was my first Elif novel and it won’t be my last! This was a fantastic read! Thoroughly enjoyed.
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This is truly such a beautiful story with phenomenal writing. Please take my review with a grain of salt because I highly, highly recommend this, but I find that I'm more of a true-blue fantasy reader and am less likely to enjoy magical realism, so this simply was not the book for me.
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What a beautiful and complex story about the love the characters have for each other, their countries, and the wondrous planet that we live on.
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There aren't enough positive adjectives to describe this book, but stunning, artful and indispensable will do for a start.

I had high expectations for a novel that recounts the history of a place as complex and nuanced as Cyprus, a personal story of forbidden love and migration, and presents today's environmental crisis from the point of view of a fig tree. Every one of my hopes was exceeded. Elif Shafak offered a depth of voice, emotion and insight to each aspect without it ever becoming heavy, thanks in part to her lyrical prose.

Anyone seeking a beautiful, satisfying reading experience and a shift in their perspective and understanding of our world will doubtless be satisfied.

I aim to recommend this novel far and wide.
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One of my favorite books this year. I love the way this book was written as well as the story. The book inspired me so much that I’m writing this review from Turkey.
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I really loved this book!! It had so many twists and turns. It kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next!! This was my first book by this Author, and it won’t be the last!! Quick read!! Highly recommended!! You won’t be disappointed!!
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At first I had trouble getting into this book, but let me make it clear that it was all ME and not the writing--which is lovely! Kostas and Defne are in love and often visit The Fig Tree to eat (even though they can't afford it). What they don't know is the fig tree listens and becomes the narrator. Vacillating between time periods, the novel shares with us the history of Cyprus, the life of Kostas and Defne, and daughter Ada. We come to understand the Turkish and Greek customs as well as the history of conflict and resolution. It is lyrical and sensual writing that will not be easily forgotten!
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