Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
Irene and Nate Stanley are living a quiet and contented life with their two children, Bliss and Shep, on their family farm in southern Illinois when Nate suddenly announces he’s been offered a job as a deputy sheriff in Oregon. Irene fights her husband. She does not want to uproot her family and has deep misgivings about the move. Nevertheless, the family leaves, and they are just settling into their life in Oregon’s high desert when the unthinkable happens. Fifteen-year-old Shep is shot and killed during an apparent robbery in their home. The murderer, a young mechanic with a history of assault, robbery, and drug-related offenses, is caught and sentenced to death.
Shep’s murder sends the Stanley family into a tailspin, with each member attempting to cope with the tragedy in his or her own way. Irene’s approach is to live, week after week, waiting for Daniel Robbin’s execution and the justice she feels she and her family deserve. Those weeks turn into months and then years. Ultimately, faced with a growing sense that Robbin’s death will not stop her pain, Irene takes the extraordinary and clandestine step of reaching out to her son’s killer. The two forge an unlikely connection that remains a secret from her family and friends.
Years later, Irene receives the notice that she had craved for so long—Daniel Robbin has stopped his appeals and will be executed within a month. This announcement shakes the very core of the Stanley family. Irene, it turns out, isn’t the only one with a shocking secret to hide. As the execution date nears, the Stanleys must face difficult truths and find a way to come to terms with the past.
Dramatic, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting, The Crying Tree is an unforgettable story of love and redemption, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the transformative power of forgiveness.
“The Crying Tree is easily one of the most impactful books I have read. The book clearly states that it’s about a mother’s ability to forgive, based on the extreme circumstances of coming to terms with her son’s murder and murderer. Along with forgiveness as “big picture theme,” the book also thoughtfully provokes no shortage of confusion about the ethics of capital punishment. The author balances simplicity with complexity by keeping the story line focused around a single, impending event, the execution of her son’s murder. This allows the complexity of the relationships amongst the characters to be richly expressed and explored. While the emotional distress of the characters is not always easy to read, it is always beautifully described and I was unable to let go of each member of the story as I came to understand how each was individually reckoning the loss of their son, brother, friend, and warden.
Beyond the obvious focus on forgiveness and capital punishment--and let’s face it, that’s been done before—I think the true impact of this book is in its ability to help us understand that relationships change and our ability to be truly compassionate with each other lies in our ability to afford and forgive those changes in each other.
Thank you again for sharing this incredible powerful book with me.”
--Rebecca Campbell, Ph.D., Director of Academic Transition Programs/Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, Northern Arizona University
"A more common name for the "crying tree" is the willow, and one grows near Steven (Shep) Stanley's grave in Blaine, OR. This 15-year-old was killed in his home, and his best friend, Daniel, has been found guilty of the crime and waits a lethal injection on death row. Gifted musician Shep was definitely the center of the world for his mother, Irene, and the intensity of her grief is exquisitely portrayed in this moving, unsentimental tale of loss. After years of severe depression, withdrawal from her family, and alcoholism, Irene comes to realize that if she does not forgive her son's killer she will be destroyed. She secretly writes to Daniel in prison, and they begin corresponding. Then Irene receives written notice of the execution date and knows she must act. VERDICT Gifted storyteller Rakha has crafted a beautiful and passionate novel that never becomes maudlin or unbelievable. All of the characters are genuinely human, and the author even manages to save a few surprising plot details to the end. Highly recommended, especially for readers interested in the subject of loss and coping."-Lisa Rohrbaugh, New Middletown, OH