Book Review: How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

Blurb

From the author of P is for Pearl comes a heart-warming book about family, friendship and what home can mean.

Stella may only be seventeen, but having read every self-help book she can find means she knows a thing or two about helping people. She sure wasn’t expecting to be the one in need of help, though.

Thanks to her father’s gambling addiction, Stella and her family now find themselves living at Fairyland Caravan Park. And hiding this truth from her friends is hard enough without dealing with another secret. Stella’s birth mother has sent her a letter.

As Stella deals with the chaos of her family, she must also confront the secrets and past of her ‘other’ family. But Stella is stronger than she realises.

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

My Review 

Stella is 17 years old and she has read as many self-help books as she can get her hands on. She loves to help people, even if they haven’t asked her to, and her friends and family need all the help they can get.

Her father’s gambling addiction has grown so out of control that they have been forced to move to the local dodgy caravan park. Her younger sister is so angry at the world that she was expelled for allegedly setting fire to the school library. Her best friend is coping with parents who work so hard they barely spend any time with him. And on top of all that, Stella has received a letter from her birth mother who she’s never met.

These are all huge issues that Stella is forced to deal with, and I would definitely recommend this book for older and more mature teenagers, but the story is written so sensitively and with so much hope and love, that I found myself crying happy tears by the end.

I fell in love with the characters, but especially Stella and her endearing awkwardness. There were so many times that I wished I could reach through the pages and give her a great big hug and I think I sort of will be able to when all this craziness is over, because I feel certain the Henry-Jones has poured her heart and soul into this story. It really is something very special the way she is able to describe so accurately something that is so painful and difficult to put into words. I wish I’d had this book to help me navigate such a tricky situation when I was a teenager.

I’m not adopted, but I do have a deadbeat Dad who I’ve never met before, and I have often felt the same guilt and shame as Stella does. It’s not easy to realise that you look and behave exactly like the villain of your own origin story, especially when they have proven that they have no interest in redeeming themselves. I loved that the ending with Stella’s birth mother was not the happy fairy tale that so many people expect from family reunions like this, because they are definitely the exception rather than the norm, but I did feel like there was still hope of a relationship/friendship of some kind in the future.

How to Grow a Family Tree has been the perfect book to help me get out of my reading slump. Full of big feelings, endearing characters, and issues that will resonate with so many teenagers and adults, Eliza Henry-Jones has once again demonstrated that she is the master of pulling at your heartstrings.

5 stars!

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

About the Author

Eliza Henry-Jones is a novelist, researcher and freelance writer based on a little farm in the Yarra Valley of Victoria.

Her debut novel In the Quiet (2015) was published as part of a three book deal with HarperCollins Australia. She has since published Ache (2017) and the young adult novel P is for Pearl (2018). Eliza’s novels have been listed for multiple awards.

Eliza has qualifications in English and psychology as well as grief, loss and trauma counselling. She has completed a first class honours thesis exploring representations of bushfire trauma in fiction and is currently a PhD candidate at Deakin University.

Eliza is a proud ambassador for the Satellite Foundation, which supports children and young people who are impacted by parental mental illness.

Eliza has been awarded a residential fellowship at Varuna in New South Wales, a young writer residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Western Australia,  the Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship in Ireland and an Australia Council Grant to work on a new novel set in Scotland.

Eliza is an experienced public speaker, facilitator and writer. You can find out more about her writing and other services here.

Details

Published: March 23rd 2020 by HarperCollins – AU

Source: Publisher

Read: Paperback, 336 pages, April 2020

Age: From 14 years

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