The Island of Missing Trees Book Review

Elif Shafak is a renowned Turkish-British author celebrated for her enthralling storytelling, complex characters, and exploration of diverse themes. Her own multicultural background has significantly influenced her works. Shafak adeptly addresses subjects such as identity, freedom of speech, feminism, religion, and societal challenges. In addition to her books, Shafak expresses her perspectives through TED Talks, public discussions, and debates.

Shafak’s literary contributions have garnered international acclaim and have been translated into numerous languages. Among her notable works are The Bastard of Istanbul, which delves into history through the lens of the Armenian genocide; Honour, an exploration of themes such as love, tradition, and honor killings; Three Daughters of Eve, which examines faith and feminism; and The Forty Rules of Love, a mystical and spiritual exploration of love inspired by Rumi and Shams.

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Shafak’s writing style distinguishes itself through its lyrical prose, vivid imagery, and remarkable ability to intricately interweave multiple narratives and timelines. She employs magical realism and diverse perspectives to provide a multifaceted view of the world.

The Island of Missing Trees takes readers on a captivating journey that transcends different eras and locations while exploring themes such as love, war, identity, resilience, and rediscovering one’s roots. The story unfolds across 1974 Cyprus, early 2000s Cyprus, and late 2010s London.

In 1974 Cyprus, Kostas and Defne, originating from different backgrounds, navigate a forbidden romance amidst the escalating conflict between the Greeks and Turks. The Happy Fig, a tavern run by a gay couple, becomes their clandestine meeting place. Tragedy strikes, compelling Kostas to flee to London while Defne remains behind, experiencing the horrors of the conflict firsthand.

In the early 2000s, Kostas, now a successful scientist, returns to Cyprus in search of closure. He reunites with Defne, who has become an archaeologist. Despite familial disapproval, the two marry, symbolizing their unwavering commitment. They visit the decaying remnants of The Happy Fig and salvage a cutting from the withered tree, representing their enduring love.

In the late 2010s, Defne succumbs to a prolonged struggle with depression and alcoholism. Her passing strains the relationship between Kostas and their daughter, Ada. Longing to connect with her heritage, Ada immerses herself in the history of her family and Cyprus. With guidance from her aunt Meryam, Ada rebuilds her bond with her roots through food and language, ultimately repairing her relationship with Kostas.

Throughout the book, the fig tree serves as a parallel narrator, witnessing the events at The Happy Fig. It bears witness to forbidden love, separation, the tragic fate of the gay couple, Defne’s struggles, and the city’s transformation. The tree accompanies Kostas and Defne to London, grows alongside Ada, endures Defne’s suffering, and embodies the challenges of making a foreign land one’s home. The story also delves into the ecosystem, exploring the sentient nature of trees, their interconnections, and the transfer of knowledge and information.

The Island of Missing Trees stands out for its use of symbolism. The fig tree serves as a significant example, representing cultural roots and resilience. The tree’s mythological and botanical importance enhances readers’ understanding of displacement beyond a narrow human perspective.

The book encompasses a wide range of emotions, scientific facts, magical realism, and the horrors of war. Some

readers may find these elements overly elaborate, diverting attention from the main story.

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