• A Crooked Tree

  • A Novel
  • By: Una Mannion
  • Narrated by: Sophie Amoss
  • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (175 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A haunting, suspenseful literary debut that combines a classic coming of age story with a portrait of a fractured American family dealing with the fallout of one summer evening gone terribly wrong.

“The night we left Ellen on the road, we drove up the mountain in silence.”

It is the early 1980s and fifteen-year-old Libby is obsessed with The Field Guide to the Trees of North America, a gift her Irish immigrant father gave her before he died. She finds solace in “The Kingdom,” a stand of red oak and thick mountain laurel near her home in suburban Pennsylvania, where she can escape from her large and unruly family and share menthol cigarettes and lukewarm beers with her best friend.

One night, while driving home, Libby’s mother, exhausted and overwhelmed with the fighting in the backseat, pulls over and orders Libby’s little sister Ellen to walk home. What none of this family knows as they drive off, leaving a twelve-year-old girl on the side of the road five miles from home with darkness closing in, is what will happen next.

A Crooked Tree is a surprising, indelible novel, both a poignant portrayal of an unmoored childhood giving way to adolescence, and a gripping tale about the unexpected reverberations of one rash act.

©2021 Una Mannion (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about A Crooked Tree

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

enjoyable listen

What drew me to this novel is the premise that a mother kicks out of the car her 12 year-old daughter after the girl was being a bit cheeky. I think we all know of someone who was kicked out of their car as a child. My mother kicked out my 2 brothers on a rural road in South Dakota. I was horrified. But what my brothers did was go through a barbed-wire fence and start walking in the corn fields. The corn was so high that they were disappearing. I screamed at my mother, who did stop, honk the horn and drive in reverse to get the boys. I’m not sure where they thought they were going, but we were a resilient bunch, and it was in full daylight.

In “A Crooked Tree”, 15 year-old Libby narrates the story which begins with Ellen being kicked out of the car, 5 miles from home at dusk. And the mother goes home! She leaves a 12 year-old to fend for herself in her Catholic School uniform in the dark! We learn that her mother isn’t the most stable mother. She frequently leaves her five children alone.

What broke my heart is that the children were too afraid to seek adult help. They feared their mother. They also wanted to protect their mother. Ellen does get picked up, after hitch-hiking, and needs to throw herself out of a moving car because that was the safest option given the driver was creepy. Plus, she didn’t want her mother to know because her mother would be angry that she hitch-hiked. So basically, when the mother was errant in her maternal duties and something went wrong, she blamed the children.

Thus, we have a story of uncertainty. While Libby is a mature 15 year-old, she is confused about what she should tell adults and who she can trust. She fears authority, as many 15 year-olds do, especially while being a teenager. Author Una Mannion does a fabulous job narrating from a 15 year-old’s conflicted and confused mind. Libby is attempting to navigate high school. She’s noticing boys. She’s trying to figure out what is right and wrong. Ellen’s event is traumatic, but Libby soldier’s on through her summer, babysitting and on the cusp of adulthood.

The story is really about Libby’s summer during 1981 when no one had cell phones or computers (or few did). It’s a time, pre-technology, in which children did have a few more freedoms. This is a coming-of-age story which will bring you back to those years when you were uneasy, lacking confidence, frustrated, and confused. Libby starts noticing adults, and parents. She compares her life with others, trying to figure out what is “normal” and what is a happy family.

I listened to audible production, performed by Sophie Amoss. It was an enjoyable listen. Libby’s narration will take you back to those awkward years.

13 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Go for it if you’re a 13 year old girl

Otherwise, stay clear. For a reason I can’t fathom, Audible recommended to me. This reads like young adult literature (and perhaps it is). Plodding story line, simplistic prose with teenage characters.

I will pay closer attention to future recommendations

4 people found this helpful

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So perfect

Performance (pacing, voices) was excellent. Yes, a coming of age story but so rich in the details. Rolling Stones quotes. The trees and woods. Smoking weed, How friendship works. How parents fail. How children just haven’t seen enough of life to make good decisions all the time. Well done Una Mannion.

4 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable - super music references

Good coming of age story- maybe a litlle less long and whiney road. Loved the music references- great for baby boomer rockers.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointed

I feel cheated. This debut novel could have been so much richer had the characters been fleshed out. I wanted to know more about the mother, more about the family landscape/dynamics.

1 person found this helpful

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  • DC
  • 01-31-21

Nostalgic coming of age

Family drama novel recounting a defining moment in a teenage girls life.
I wish the author had stepped up the pace of the story.

1 person found this helpful

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Una Mannion brought me home

I grew up in New Jersey around same time as Libby our heroine, was growing up in PA.

Una’s writing allowed me to fall back into that time and remember those teenage formative years.
I look forward to reading more of Una’s novels in the future! I LOVED A Crooked Tree

1 person found this helpful

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Overall, amazing

this book is beautiful, it’s so descriptive I felt like I was standing there with the main character. There are some points within the plot that I felt like didn’t really have any reason to be there, but overall it was great. Every character had depth and although there were a lot of names to juggle, everyone had their flaws and perfections.
The one thing I didn’t like was the climax to something I expected to be big, some sort of twist or something but it kinda left me disappointed in the end. The narrators voice is what really hooked me, though. It felt like the main character was speaking directly to me. I could hear emotion in her voice when I know the book didn’t describe what emotion the characters were feeling. Just all around breathtaking.

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A Few Plot Crutches

An entertaining coming of age story. The author seemed afraid to have any truly serious events happen to her characters. Some problems are solved simply through plot crutches. Others are overblown and unrealistic. The idea that a young girl who was sexually abused by a grown man would be more frightened of a rebel teen than of being alone with other grown men creates significant problems for the story as a whole. The voice narrator made it worth finishing.

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So Slow…

I had an extremely hard time paying attention…it just seemed to drag on going nowhere.