Tell It To The Trees by Anita Rau Badami is a little bit of a blast the past. It came out in hard cover way back in 2011 and has been on my To Be Read list ever since. I have been a fan of Badami’s since her first novel, Tamarind Mem came out years ago and have followed her career with great interest ever since.
Tell It To The Trees is about an Indo-Canadian family living in a remote part of British Columbia. They have but one neighbor and live a rather isolated life. And that is just the way the patriarch of the family wants it. He is an abusive and controlling bully who holds his family captive by his whims and volatile temper. After his first wife leaves him he retreats to India to find a new, more submissive wife.
The main character development in the novel takes place through Varsha, the child of the first marriage, who will do anything to prevent her new mother from abandoning her as well. As she grows up the influence of her father becomes more apparent. She learns and absorbs his bullying techniques to horrifying results.
Overall, I cannot say that I enjoyed Tell It To The Trees. A novel about physical and psychological abuse is not something I enjoy, it does not matter how well written it is. In my memory, all of Badami’s novels have a depressing strain to them, but this one has little else in it that is up lifting. The relationship between Varsha and he little brother is quite endearing in the beginning but as Varsha grows up it turns quite toxic.
Who would like this book? Difficult question to answer. I recommended Tell It To The Trees to my mother-in-law’s book club without having read it, which was a bit of a mistake as none of them enjoyed it. That does not mean it did not stimulate interesting debate, just that the reading process was not what I expected. If you do plan on reading Badami in the future, I would recommend one of her earlier works like Tamarind Mem or the multiple award winning The Hero’s Walk.