I have to admit when Maureen Lang told me the title of her latest release "The Oak Leaves" from Tyndale I couldn't help but wonder at the title. Then she explained it to me and it made all the sense in the world. The story is about a chromosonal condition called Fragile X Syndrome. This condition is passed along through family lines via the females of the family. In days past when family trees were illustrated as though on an actual tree, the females were always written on the leaves while the males were written on the branches. Since most of the females in a family would marry and change their last names they were not the ones through whom the family name carried down. That priviledge belonged to the men in each generation. Thus they were written on the sturdy branches while the women were named on the leaves that eventually fall to the ground.
The story is a reflection of Maureen's and her husband's own struggle with a child who has Fragile X. The unique format of this story is what draws the reader in. First, you meet a contemporary family, Tali and Luke Ingram and their year-old son, Ben. Although Ben is somewhat delayed in his developmental milestones, it's hard for Talie to accept this. It's easy for her to ignore these delays except for when they are at play group and she is able to compare him with other children the same age or even younger.
Early in the story Talie comes across a journal kept by a female ancestor named Cosima. Cosima grew up in Ireland and during the course of the story moves to England. Talie learns quickly from the journal that back then the family had several members who were referred to as "feeble-minded."
Maureen expertly toggles between the events in Talie and Luke's lives as they come to grips with the possibility Ben may have Fragile X and that of Cosima's family and the fears they face, not having the benefit of knowledge about DNA and other such things. Mareen also does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the story and provides that deep POV I spoke about on this blog recently. Her characters seemed so real to me that when Maureen said recently she might not make a prearranged get-together because she had to wait for her husband to come home to watch the kids, I almost suggested she call Dana to babysit. Dana is Talie's sister in Oak Leaves who often comes to babysit for Ben. I honestly had to stop and remind myself that Dana was a fictional character, not Maureen's sister!
Of late I haven't been a huge fan of historical novels, but Maureen Lang made me a convert. A couple months ago I read her novel "Remember Me" about the events of WWI, and now I've read "The Oak Leaves." It was Oak Leaves that kept me occupied on my recent flight to Colorado. It's a good thing I finished it before we landed or I might have asked permission to stay on the plane LOL.
You can own your own copy of The Oak Leaves complete with a signed bookplate inside the front cover! I will be drawing a name for the book on Saturday, June 9, 2007. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog and your name will go into the hat.
Don't forget to leave a comment!
I guarantee you will love this book!