The Puzzle Bark Tree – Stephanie Gertler

Posted 22 January, 2010 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 21 Comments


Title: The Puzzle Bark Tree
Author: Stephanie Gertler
Published: 2002 Pages: 319
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3/5

Gasp! Holy Hannah, a book review! Truth be told this is a library book and I’m getting emails from the library threatening to take away my shiny new library card if I don’t return the book, and if I don’t write at least some thoughts on the book before I return it I never will. Who knows if I’ll ever get to those finished in 2009 or not let alone a year in review, but gotta start back somewhere, right?

Kind of wish I could start with the fabulous books I ended 2009 with–Hunger Games, Goodbye Tsugumi, Breaking Dawn, Cry The Beloved Country. But I guess maybe starting with an “eh” book is just as good a place as any. Hmmm, why does it feel like I’m stalling?

The Puzzle Bark Tree was my January book club pick and I don’t think any of us were really blown away by the book. Some liked it better than others, but I guess that’s to be expected when you get a group of people reading the same book. The story begins with an elderly couple, the Hammonds, is found dead in their beds. They are discovered by their longtime housekeeper, Jemma, and when Jemma calls the daughters Grace and Melanie to inform them of the horrific news they both immediately know that their parents committed suicide.

The Hammonds have led a life of hermitude (I may have just made up that word?) never allowing anyone to get close to them, even Grace and Melanie. When it came time for Grace and Melanie to learn the contents of their will they were both shocked to find that Grace was left a house several hours away from where they grew up. Grace embarks on a journey to discover the home she was left and begins opening doors to mysteries and a life long forgotten.

My friend Laura finished this one before me (I actually didn’t finish until after our meeting…) and she described the book to me as something you might see on a Hallmark or Lifetime Channel special. Pretty accurate description. Poor Grace has just uncovered a past she never knew she had but her selfish and unsupportive husband simply cannot understand her sudden confusion about her life. Throw in a whiny teenaged daughter and a potential love affair and you have all the makings of a great melodrama.

I’d throw this book into the “OK” category. I’d recommend it to those who like Anita Shreve type books (which I like OK). It has depth and good character development. There’s an element of mystery and of course love interest. It’s fairly predictable in a way (at least in hindsight)–actually it’s a totally harmless book and is certainly entertaining enough. I think the bottom line is it just isn’t my kind of book. I wouldn’t recommend it for book clubs–we had a few things to talk about but conversation finally fizzled out as we began to talk about the other books we’re currently reading.

A totally rambling and nonsensical review. Guess that’s what happens when the book just doesn’t speak to you one way or another. I ended up finishing it after the book club meeting if that tells you anything?

Are you reading anything exciting right now? I just started Les Miserables this morning. It might take me all damn year, but I have high hopes. Ha!

Dinner’s ready–so ramble off.

21 Responses to “The Puzzle Bark Tree – Stephanie Gertler”

  1. I have to say I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts on The Hunger Games, Breaking Dawn (you thought it was fabulous? everyone I know was just meh about it or worse), and Cry the Beloved Country. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll be picking up The Puzzle Barktree any time soon. :)

    Good to hear from you, Trish!

  2. I have never even heard of this book. I can totally related to the library overdue books, I currently owe them $27.00! How in the world does that happen?! Right now I am currently reading Atonement, I FINALLY read The Book Thief and really liked that. I am so excited to start reading some of your reviews again! Hope you are settled into your new home nicely…

  3. Love this rambly review (although I won’t be picking this book up!). I can totally relate to being so behind on 2009 reviews that a “year in review” post seems unlikely! (I haven’t totally given up hope; I give myself until the end of the month…)

  4. This is the best post ever! The book doesn’t sound like one for me (I’ve never read Shreve, but she doesn’t appeal to me, and neither does this), but I’d SO missed your reviews, Trish. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Goodbye Tsugumi. I liked that one a lot.

  5. Wow, starting Les Mis? Good for you. Every now and again I see that book looking at me from my shelf and I turn my head away in shame.

  6. verbatim

    Hey, stranger! Good to hear from you. I hope your lack of blogging means you’re having lots of fun doing other things in life. I just finished Say You’re One of Them, one of the saddest collections of short stories I’ve ever read, but very well written and definitely worthwhile. Now I have to go with something lighter, so I’m reading The Geography of Bliss — very, very funny, and I love travel books since I never go anywhere. Thanks for checking in with a post!

  7. *Amanda – I actually had major issues with Breaking Dawn so no, that doesn’t fall in the “fabulous” category. That’s one review I actually started writing in my break but never got back to it. Now I’m afraid I’ve forgotten too much about these books!

    *Bermuda – It’s harmless and easy–just didn’t speak to me.

    *Michelle – $27!! That’s what happened to me and the library threatened to send to collections. I figure in my old age I’m wiser, although I think I still returned this book a day late…

    *Vivienne – :) I’m still going slow but hopefully I’ll start making more regular appearances here and then branch back out to bloghopping (which I’m still avoiding).

    *Avisannschild – End of the month, huh? Guess that’s a good goal. Glad I’m not the only one behind!

    *Nymeth – Slowly but surely. I’ve actually been thinking of abandoning the Reading Nook and just starting up a new place where people can follow if they want and don’t have to if they don’t want. I need less pressure. Really loved Tsugumi but the details are foggy now. :(

    *Trisha – Ha! Well, I’m doing a readalong with two other coworkers and we’re only reading one part a month so it will take us five months. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes!

    *Verbatim – Look at you with a new picture!! Hi there. :) I haven’t heard of either of your selections but The Geography of Bliss sounds right up my alley. The break? I decided I needed to make life, not the computer, my priority. It’s been going good! LOL.

  8. Welcome back (said very softly so as not to scare you off).

    Made up words are the very best kind…especially when they’re based on a real word.

  9. cj

    So, if you want to do a review but can’t remember much about the book, do a ‘back of the book’ kinda thing. Quote the book and add whatever you remember and call it good.

    Sorry this one was so-so. I’m over 100 pages into my latest and I’m still not sure I like it.

    It’s very good to have you back!


  10. Your library sends reminder e-mails? How nice of them! If hermitude isn’t a word, it really should become one–I like it! Maybe it can be your word of the week next week ;)

  11. Trish!!!! trishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishtrishMUSHROOMMUSHROOM!

    You’re reading Les Miserables?! I know this is silly but I’m SO excite d- it’s one of my old favorites, I can’t wait to see what you think! Are you reading the unabridged version? :D

  12. Love your review, I just hopped over from the 100 mile challenge. Oh’ my aching feet. I think the reading and walking go hand in hand if you will. I’m so tired of walking that I must read. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m currently reading one of my challenge choices. Passage to India, I find the story a little strange, but I have so many friends from India, I thought I’d give it a try to see what they are talking about with the “classes”. Not sure I’m getting all that from this book, even though I’m liking it. I finding myself making a web of characters so I can keep things straigt.

  13. “A totally rambling and nonsensical review.”—No way!!! I was able to tell from your review all kinds of things about the book…including that it probably isn’t one for me either. But I enjoyed every second of your review…because I love hearing absolutely anything you have to say. I’ve missed you so much, Trish!

  14. I have never heard of this book before. At first glance it looks appealing, but I don’t feel any pressing need to read it.

  15. Hey Trish! So glad to see your post! :)

    Thanks for the honest review. I think I’ll let this pass. Btw, I can’t wait to hear what you thought of Hunger Games & Goodbye Tsugumi. :)

  16. *Softdrink – LOL–you won’t scare me off. :) I hate when I can’t think of the word I want, but sometimes a made up one fits just as well!

    *CJ – I think I’m going to have to use the jacket covers for some of the books. I have such a terrible memory! Sorry you’re not liking your current book–bummer!

    *Laura – I can’t remember if they called or left me an email but they definitely notified me! Guess those two weeks went quicker than I thought.

    *Jason – Jason Jason Jason! :) Confused about the mushrooms–or were you just eating them? :P Unabridged Les Mis. I’m 4% done right now! Ha!

    *Irene – Welcome! I haven’t read Passage to India but I’ve heard good things about it. I tried to read Forster’s Howards End and just couldn’t get myself to like it! Hope you fair better. :)

    *Debi – LOL–I knew you’d like my ramblings. I’ve missed you so much, too. I’m hoping to try and figure out a schedule so I can make time to not only blog here but also come visit you guys! It’s been too long…

    *Kailana – I hadn’t heard of it either. It’s an OK book–just not one to scream to the masses about!

    *Lisa – The cover makes a lot of sense once you get into the story (which is a mystery!). For Les Mis we are reading one part a month (there are 5 parts–so 5 months). Or so. I’m only 50 pages in so far.

    *Melody – I liked Hunger Games and Goodbye Tsugumi in such different ways. Really loved Tsugumi–just hope I can remember the details!

  17. Too bad you didn’t like this one so much, I think Anita Shreve type books are only ok too though… Can’t wait for your thoughts on The Hunger Games though, I just finished the second book and absolutely loved it!