Author: Erin Kelly
About the book: Karen was just an unassuming straight-A student in linguistics when she met Biba. She was finishing her senior year, and though she had the same roommates through college, she didn't feel like they were really friends. Meeting Biba seemed to be fate, as Biba was posting an ad for a German tutor when Karen happened to come upon her. She was immediately entranced. Biba hired her and invited her to a party at her house.
Biba was an aspiring actress and lived a carefree life with her brother, Rex, in a rundown house in Highgate. The house had had a variety of tenants and Karen was soon to become it's latest. Their lifestyle was so foreign to the one that Karen knew that she couldn't help but embrace it in her desire to belong. She had never had a friend like Biba and felt alive in her presence. Her dad had told her she needed at leasst one summer to not work and enjoy herself before she started her "life". Little did she know that this last summer would effect her life and her choices in ways that she never could have dreamed.
The story starts out with Karen picking up Rex as he is released from prison. They are going to try to make a go of it with their 9 year old daughter Alice. Secrets and choices are immediately alluded to as Karen tries to protect Alice from the secrets that sent Rex to prison as well as one secret that only Karen seems to know.
We learn all about Karen, Rex and Biba through flashbacks that take you through the last summer they were all together. That carefree summer living in Highgate. Karen learns that Rex and Biba have had a troubled childhood marked with suicide and abandonment. The two of them are very close and Rex protects his sister with a fierceness that rivals a mama bear. Somewhere along the way, with the beer and drugs and sex, Karen and Rex fall into an unlikely relationship. Some rash decisions made by all change all their lives.
My thoughts: This book was a wonderful debut by Erin Kelly. The flashbacks unfold with just the right speed and the groundwork is laid out for a surprising ending that I didn't see coming. The London setting and surrounding areas are perfect and the author does a good job of making you feel like you are there (not that I have ever been - but it is definitely as I imagined it). She weaves the story around these three to the point where one is inseparable from the other. Every choice and decision that was made lead to the inevitable conclusion. Great story! Highly recommended!
Read an excerpt of The Poison Tree.
~This is a library book that I chose to review.~
The Poison Tree: A Novel
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin, Jan 2011