Meet the Keller family, five generations of firstborn women--an unbroken line of daughters--living together in the same house on a secluded olive grove in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California.Read more...
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- More About The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller SantoOverview
Meet the Keller family, five generations of firstborn women--an unbroken line of daughters--living together in the same house on a secluded olive grove in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California.
Anna, the family matriarch, is 112 and determined to become the oldest person in the world. An indomitable force, strong in mind and firm in body, she rules Hill House, the family home she shares with her daughter Bets, granddaughter Callie, great-granddaughter Deb, and great-great-granddaughter Erin. Though they lead ordinary lives, there is an element of the extraordinary to these women: the eldest two are defying longevity norms. Their unusual lifespans have caught the attention of a geneticist who believes they hold the key to breakthroughs that will revolutionize the aging process for everyone.
But Anna is not interested in unlocking secrets the Keller blood holds. She believes there are some truths that must stay hidden, including certain knowledge about her origins that she has carried for more than a century. Like Anna, each of the Keller women conceals her true self from the others. While they are bound by blood and the house they share, living together has not always been easy. And it is about to become more complicated now that Erin, the youngest, is back, alone and pregnant, after two years abroad with an opera company. Her return and the arrival of the geneticist who has come to study the Keller family ignites explosive emotions that these women have kept buried and uncovers revelations that will shake them all to their roots.
Told from varying viewpoints, Courtney Miller Santo's compelling and evocative debut novel captures the joys and sorrows of family--the love, secrets, disappointments, jealousies, and forgiveness that tie generations to one another.
The timelessness of mothers and daughters
For the five generations of women who inhabit Courtney Miller Santo’s elegant debut novel, The Roots of the Olive Tree, the ties that bind are often tangled. From the fiery and preternaturally robust centenarian, Anna, to the youngest and pregnant member of the family tribe, Erin, the evolving relationships between mothers and daughters are at the heart of this story, which is set against the lush backdrop of an olive tree farm in Northern California.
With nary a man around the farm—all of the men in the Keller family are either dead, confined to a nursing home or determined never to return—the female quintet find themselves the subject of a visiting research geneticist, who is determined to unlock the secret behind the women’s incredible resistance to the ravages of old age. The story unfolds as the youngest member of the family, Erin, returns home from Europe where she has found success as an opera singer. Pregnant and bereft, Erin declines to explain her predicament, but is determined to rekindle her relationship with her mother, Deborah, who has been languishing in jail for years after murdering her husband—Erin’s father—in a jealous rage.
Erin’s wish is granted, but Deborah’s return to the farm is not the joyful family reunion her daughter imagined. Old wounds are reopened, and it is soon clear that jail has not reformed the family’s proverbial black sheep, a damaged narcissist with a violent temper. The women are soon at odds, with daughters shunning their mothers in favor of the nurturing, unconditional love of grandmothers, great-grandmothers and—in the Keller family—even great-great-grandmothers.
Santo is well aware of the mystical nature of longevity, as well as the blessings bestowed by grandmothers: Her own great-grandmother, Winifred Rodgers White, was almost 104 when Santo wrote her novel. This exploration of the mysteries of aging and the human heart will resonate with readers.