Tree of Lives: A “Sanecere” Read for Abuse Survivors

Elizabeth Garden’s : “Tree of Lives”

A “Sanecere” Read for Abuse Survivors

Book Review by Rebecca Hunt

Book Review by Rebecca Hunt

I had a break-through reading ‘Tree of Lives.’  It is recommended reading in a support group I belong to for adult-survivors of abuse.   Our group requires us to read one chapter per day from any book of our choice on the list; and I was honestly thrilled that Garden’s book is over 450 pages, since the other books are not interesting—many are actually damaging, I feel. 

“Tree of Life” by Gustav Klimt

The other books discuss abuse directly on every page (whether it’s description of abuse, or mental analysis, or techniques; they point to it, they keep you ‘thinking’ about abuse—which always reminds me of my abuse.  To think I should have to relive my childhood abuse during my adult life for a whole chapter each day!  It is, I feel, counter-productive to recovery (I’m sure books that obsess about this theme are beneficial at certain stages of recovery; but I am just a normal (almost) woman, who is trying to live a happy life, while ironing out a few (very ugly) wrinkles by going to this group.   I feel that Ruth(ie), the main character, is like me.  She lived normal events too. 

Ruth traveled, worked for magazines, got married, pregnant, had daughters; and it is nice for someone like myself, with my experiences as a victim, to get to see the happy, ‘normal’ side of life, and to feel like I fit-in and belong in Ruth’s world. 

I asked our group leader why she didn’t have more books like ‘Tree of Lives’ on the list, and she said it’s because there just aren’t more books like ‘Tree of Lives.’

“It is,” she told me, “a rare treat to find a ‘semi-fiction novel’ (Garden says in the Epilogue that her book is part-fiction), written about childhood abuse, by someone who is ‘sanecere.’”  …One of the reasons I wanted to write this review so badly is for a chance to use Vicki’s (she is our group leader) corny made-up word (sanecere) and publish the review with her first name (she said it was okay).

“Sanecere,” says Vicki, “is [what she calls] an abuse-survivor who is not all mentally damaged—sort of normal, (‘sane’)  but who is at the same time ‘sincere.’”  I know what Vicki means, (though I would never have used that cornball word, except to laugh at her—as I’m doing now).  I don’t understand why very few people “get it,” as Ms. Garden and I do…

If you don’t have the experience of the abuse, “don’t write about it!” (advice to all those “Doctor Jills & Jims” on the Amazon Bestseller List.)  A lot of those ‘pseudo-psychos’ (that’s my word, not Vickie’s), think they are fooling everyone by acting like the backs of their ears don’t squeak.

Then, there are the authors on the other side of the coin; those who areindeed mentally messed-up, but who seem to believe they are fully-recovered wise-people, who need to become gurus to their flocks of battered-sheep.

Ms. Garden (Vickie and I agree), is the happy-medium.  She is a very wise woman and author, but she makes these little jokes and lighthearted comments to feign a naïve mind; but this makes her look all the more intelligent. 

This book is, indeed, intelligent; and many sentences will jump out at the reader in search of wisdom.  My favorite quote about intelligence is:

“[Ruth] became certain that clues were always there, and with faith
and perseverance an underlying picture gradually emerges
from the soup. There was an intelligence behind situations,
lessons to be learned everywhere.” 


(From the chapter: “Connecting Dots”)

…My only wish that hasn’t yet come true about this book, is that (the other reason I was excited to write this review) I have this unrealistic fantasy that the author will actually see and read my review and like what I suggest.

            I wish that Ms. Garden would write something new that would help people, women, like me, who do need that “sanecere” kind of wisdom that other authors don’t seem capable of giving.  …I truly loved, ‘Tree of Lives,’ but because of its length—and because I already know what happens with the characters—I probably won’t read the whole thing again.  But still, I would love to be able to consult the wisdom of Ms. Garden to help myself along with my own sanecere development.  (Okay, Vickie, I am starting to like your word—though I still think it’s corny.) 

            So, my wish is that Ms. Garden would write a book (maybe she already did write it, and I just don’t know about it?) that would put all of her wisdom about surviving abuse, while having a family and career and being a successful person, into a “short” book.  Maybe it wouldn’t need multiple characters and a storyline, because then people would know how it goes and only read it only once.  Rather, it would be the kind of “Garden’s Sanecere Book of Wisdom” that people like me could carry on the bus, or wherever, and peak at it now and again when we need a little lift.  

To conclude, Tree of Lives is ‘definitely’ worth reading all 450+ pages, and—assuming you are not too damaged—it will really help you grow and be healthy.

  • Rebecca Hunt.