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Why the Tree Loves the Ax

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After an astounding debut with his novel Sister, Jim Lewis once again proves his remarkable talent with Why the Tree Loves the Ax.

Caroline Harrison is a young woman drifting across the country from a secret past to an uncertain future. Stranded by accident in a small Texas city, she decides to settle down and stay, only to have her peace destroyed by a moment of inspired fury. From there she's on the run, to New York City to confront her ex-husband, and then upstate, where she lands in a small house in the woods inhabited by three men and an eight-year-old boy—a tiny criminal community. But will they help her or hurt her? And what exactly are they scheming?

This is a story of female violence, fear, and resourcefulness. It is a meditation on identity and memory. Lewis's writing is deft and haunting, and the story establishes a new model for women's narrative. Why the Tree Loves the Ax is sure to put Lewis in the pantheon of important young American writers.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 29, 1997 – "I was 27 years old and I had lost my way," confesses Caroline Harrison, the seductive, shape-shifting narrator of Lewis's second novel (after Sister), minutes before totaling her car outside the remote city of Sugartown, Tex. Thus begins a hallucinatory tale of violence and disguises, spiritual disorientation and wanderlust that will eventually carry Caroline from a troubled marriage in Manhattan across the country and back. In chapters framed as responses to the interrogations of a voice whose identity is concealed until the last chapter, Caroline gradually reveals, in an affectless manner, the patterns of self-destruction and self-invention that define her life. Recovering from her injuries in a hospital in Sugartown, she forges an application for a job as an orderly at a retirement home called Eden View, a haunted purgatory of aging transients. She soon befriends two Sugartown loners, Bonnie, a free-spirited bartender, and Billy, a violently deranged Eden View denizen, who presents Caroline with a shoebox he asks her to deliver to friends on the outside while forbidding her to look at its contents. When a riot erupts in Sugartown, Caroline hears imaginary voices directing her to kill a policeman with a baseball bat; when Bonnie dies in the ensuing violence, Caroline assumes her identity and flees north towards a showdown with Billy's circle--three fugitives and an angelic child printing counterfeit money in upstate New York. Lewis's fluid evocation of the shattered lives and landscapes Caroline traverses is occasionally upset by passages of overheated sex and baffling dream visions; and what seems a gradual, suspenseful build-up to the real story behind Caroline's madness remains frustratingly unrealized. But the story line's very unreliability, and what it suggests about how we view our lives, is certainly as much Lewis's point as his protagonist's sad odyssey through the perdition of contemporary America.
Why the Tree Loves the Ax
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  • $6.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jan 27, 1998
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 276 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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