The Family Tree by Sheri S. Tepper
A weed has started growing in the sidewalk of Dora Henry’s husband’s home. Even though they have been married more than two years, it is still his home, with everything in its place. She is his token wife, someone to care for the house and provide his meals. She also is a policeman, the only outside interest she has.
Dora looks at the weed and warns it that Jared will not allow it to stay. She is correct. When he arrives home from his job, he pulls the weed. It returns the next day. Jared and the weed declare war. Dora moves out, realizing her marriage is wrong for her. She doesn’t realize the weed is the precursor of the forests. Within a few weeks the forests have taken over the suburbs, growing in all the extra spaces humans don’t use or need – like car sales lots, fallow fields, side yards, empty houses…
She and her partner are investigating a series of unusual murders. Three scientists connected with a nearby gene research center have been found stabbed. One of the scientists had worked at Jared’s firm. There is more going on, especially with the animals at the research area. Are these connected with the trees somehow? When Dora has some unusual visitors appear in the woods beside her house, things get stranger and her life falls into its proper place.
This is only half the story. There is also a fantasy component with a different set of characters. The back and forth between the stories is confusing at the beginning. I could not figure out if or how the stories might connect. When they do, I’ll admit I was very surprised.
Tepper’s imagination has attacked the human treatment of the environment in a new way. The trees take over in a logical fashion. The animals in the woods flourish. The sense of foreboding and of security both increase. Dora finds her strength and starts becoming a person to recon with. The first half of the book was hard to follow, especially with the fantasy characters. The second half tugged my attention in as the story pulled together. The pro-environment stance is blatant as Tepper uses it for her story line. I wonder about Dora’s character, though. The policewoman and the subservient wife do not fit together to my thinking. The meek housekeeper for Jared doesn’t match the person she becomes – the policewoman fits better.