The Thorn Tree
The Scottish stone cottage of Agatha, spinster with more than a helping of spunk, becomes the haven and prison for American teenager and skateboard fanatic Hope, after her father leaves home and her mother Margaret won't tell her why. Margaret is trapped between her own disappointments in her husband's relapse into addiction and her desire to shelter and guide her daughter the best way she knows how. Packing Hope off to Aunt Agatha seems like the best solution for what would otherwise be a tension-filled summer.
The novel shows us each woman's perspective, with Hope railing against her mother's shallowness and Margaret fearing her daughter's rebellion, while Agatha's determination to provide a refuge from trouble is sent sailing away by Hope's inability to stay out of it.
Margaret spends her summer finding out who she is other than a wife and mother -- she develops a friendship with a fatherly neighbor and sparks fly with a successful businessman. Hope has already tried the drugs that led her father to abandon his family in search of a greater high, but all she knows is that her father was an inspiring athlete who balanced out her uptight mom. This summer she's forced out of her comfortable understanding and has to reinvent herself and her vision of her dad. And Agatha knows she's reaching the last years of her life, and wonders if having put family first all these years has really been what her life's purpose was, or were there opportunities for romance and adventure that she missed? As Hope grudgingly begins to enjoy life on a rocky island, Agatha injures herself gravely, and Hope has to shoulder responsibility she's never taken on before. Margaret has to decide whether to drop everything and swoop in to rescue the situation, or whether to let the delicate trust Agatha and Hope have built continue to strengthen.
In this touching and deftly drawn novel of the family ties that draw generations back to their roots, Marshall creates a living portrait of the Scottish isles. Her novel is peopled by the tough but kind folks who have made their home on stony shores, and whose emigrant children know only the comforts of American prosperity.