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|Una, you got me with the first sentence: "The night we left Ellen on the road, we were driving north up 252 near where it meets 2020 and then crosses the Pennsylvania Turnpike." I knew instantly this was going to be a page turner and would be about either a dog or a girl. Either way, I was ready. Oh, and it probably would be taking place in the mountains, and it would take place outdoors. Una Mannion, how can this be your debut novel? It's got so much depth to it, yet it's like an old familiar story. Suspenseful, yes. Empathetic, yes that too. Admiration for nature, totally. Spending time with this small community of young people who are witness to family dysfunctions based on fears and deep needs for privacy is like reading about any neighborhood, USA. The bonds and the bitterness, the grief and anger, the secrets . . . all these emotions are so tenderly expressed — in the voice of coming-of-age teenagers who could have been me or my brothers or my friends. Well done Una.|
“A Crooked Tree is the delicately woven story of a single mother’s bad decision to kick one of her children out of the car miles from home, and how that decision affects an entire network of friends and neighbors throughout the summer. Gorgeously told and intricately written, this hardly seems the work of a debut novelist; Una Mannion will be one to watch, and A Crooked Tree already has me anticipating her next book!”
— Mary O'Malley, Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, MO
A haunting, suspenseful literary debut that combines a classic coming of age story with a portrait of a fractured American family dealing with the fallout of one summer evening gone terribly wrong.
“The night we left Ellen on the road, we drove up the mountain in silence.”
It is the early 1980s and fifteen-year-old Libby is obsessed with The Field Guide to the Trees of North America, a gift her Irish immigrant father gave her before he died. She finds solace in “The Kingdom,” a stand of red oak and thick mountain laurel near her home in suburban Pennsylvania, where she can escape from her large and unruly family and share menthol cigarettes and lukewarm beers with her best friend.
One night, while driving home, Libby’s mother, exhausted and overwhelmed with the fighting in the backseat, pulls over and orders Libby’s little sister Ellen to walk home. What none of this family knows as they drive off leaving a twelve-year-old girl on the side of the road five miles from home with darkness closing in, is what will happen next.
A Crooked Tree is a surprising, indelible novel, both a poignant portrayal of an unmoored childhood giving way to adolescence, and a gripping tale about the unexpected reverberations of one rash act.
Una Mannion was born in Philadelphia and now lives in County Sligo, Ireland. This is her first novel.