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The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir

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In this compelling, beautiful memoir, award-winning writer Apricot Irving recounts her childhood as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti during a time of upheaval—both in the country and in her home. Apricot Irving grew up as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti—a country easy to sensationalize but difficult to understand. Her father was an agronomist, a man who hiked alone into th In this compelling, beautiful memoir, award-winning writer Apricot Irving recounts her childhood as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti during a time of upheaval—both in the country and in her home. Apricot Irving grew up as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti—a country easy to sensationalize but difficult to understand. Her father was an agronomist, a man who hiked alone into the hills with a macouti of seeds to preach the gospel of trees in a deforested but resilient country. Her mother and sisters, meanwhile, spent most of their days in the confines of the hospital compound they called home. As a child, this felt like paradise to Irving; as a teenager, the same setting felt like a prison. Outside of the walls of the missionary enclave, Haiti was a tumult of bugle-call bus horns and bicycles that jangled over hard-packed dirt, the clamor of chickens and cicadas, the sudden, insistent clatter of rain as it hammered across tin roofs and the swell of voices running ahead of the storm. As she emerges into womanhood, an already confusing process made all the more complicated by Christianity’s demands, Irving struggles to understand her father’s choices. His unswerving commitment to his mission, and the anger and despair that followed failed enterprises, threatened to splinter his family. Beautiful, poignant, and explosive, The Gospel of Trees is the story of a family crushed by ideals, and restored to kindness by honesty. Told against the backdrop of Haiti’s long history of intervention—often unwelcome—it grapples with the complicated legacy of those who wish to improve the world. Drawing from family letters, cassette tapes, journals, and interviews, it is an exploration of missionary culpability and idealism, told from within.


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In this compelling, beautiful memoir, award-winning writer Apricot Irving recounts her childhood as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti during a time of upheaval—both in the country and in her home. Apricot Irving grew up as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti—a country easy to sensationalize but difficult to understand. Her father was an agronomist, a man who hiked alone into th In this compelling, beautiful memoir, award-winning writer Apricot Irving recounts her childhood as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti during a time of upheaval—both in the country and in her home. Apricot Irving grew up as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti—a country easy to sensationalize but difficult to understand. Her father was an agronomist, a man who hiked alone into the hills with a macouti of seeds to preach the gospel of trees in a deforested but resilient country. Her mother and sisters, meanwhile, spent most of their days in the confines of the hospital compound they called home. As a child, this felt like paradise to Irving; as a teenager, the same setting felt like a prison. Outside of the walls of the missionary enclave, Haiti was a tumult of bugle-call bus horns and bicycles that jangled over hard-packed dirt, the clamor of chickens and cicadas, the sudden, insistent clatter of rain as it hammered across tin roofs and the swell of voices running ahead of the storm. As she emerges into womanhood, an already confusing process made all the more complicated by Christianity’s demands, Irving struggles to understand her father’s choices. His unswerving commitment to his mission, and the anger and despair that followed failed enterprises, threatened to splinter his family. Beautiful, poignant, and explosive, The Gospel of Trees is the story of a family crushed by ideals, and restored to kindness by honesty. Told against the backdrop of Haiti’s long history of intervention—often unwelcome—it grapples with the complicated legacy of those who wish to improve the world. Drawing from family letters, cassette tapes, journals, and interviews, it is an exploration of missionary culpability and idealism, told from within.

30 review for The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    It's not even 2 p.m. and I've already convinced a half dozen people to read this book today. I've never read a book like this that walks the line between turning missionaries into heroes and deconstructing the missionary narrative completely. If you catalogued books by the narrative attitude, you'd shelves this one somewhere between The End of the Spear and The Poisonwood Bible. Apricot lived too closely with her father to lionize him, but her respect for him and his work remains clear, even whe It's not even 2 p.m. and I've already convinced a half dozen people to read this book today. I've never read a book like this that walks the line between turning missionaries into heroes and deconstructing the missionary narrative completely. If you catalogued books by the narrative attitude, you'd shelves this one somewhere between The End of the Spear and The Poisonwood Bible. Apricot lived too closely with her father to lionize him, but her respect for him and his work remains clear, even when she's sharing memories of his most obvious shortcomings. While most missionary biographies tend towards worshipful reverence for the brave visionary, this takes a wider view. Instead of a deep close up on the face of the missionary himself, this tells a larger story, including the reactions of his family (too often unable to keep up with his pace of work or meet his standards), the history of the island and its people, and even the immediate impact of his work in the years after her father comes to spread the gospel of trees. This wider view allows us to see her father in proper context. This is the story of Haiti: from Colombus landing there in 1492 up until shortly after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010. It's also the story of a girl who partially grew up there off and on in the 80's and early 90's. It's a story about missionaries that addresses the idealism that energizes them but doesn't shrink away from discussing the paternalism and colonialism that often become their legacy. It's also the story of trees. On an island that has been so devastatingly deforested, Apricot Irving's father is as much a missionary for trees as for Jesus. Most of all, this is the story of a girl who grew up with a father full of idealism and frustration. She both resented and admired her father, and loves him still. (He gave his blessing for her to tell this story.) And from my experience with missionaries, this is a story that needs to be told. Irving consistently holds on to the tension inherent in missionary work--it is equal parts adventure and burden, equal parts hopeful and frustrating. Sometimes missionaries feel they must craft a certain narrative in order to draw the interest of their supporters and to frame their work as if it is working. We expect a certain kind of narrative arc to a missionary's story. As Apricot says "a redemptive theme was expected in each and every newsletter and slide show. If my parents couldn't deliver, then the funding would be redirected" but now as an adult, Apricot resists telling that story, instead untangling the resentment and reluctance to discuss Haiti that had become her family's strategy of defense. She does so with great daring and honesty, but she never neglects the beauty. The beauty of the island, the beauty of simple pleasures and human kindness. And most of all, she tells the story with beautiful language that reflects her attention to detail and her ability to summon up perfect imagery. There isn't a wasted word or description in the whole book. In the end, Irving concludes that "If, like my father, you suffer from a savior complex, Haiti is a bleak assignment, but if you are able to enter it unguarded, shielded only by curiosity, you will find the sorrows entangled with a defiant joy." It's this spirit of defiant joy that keeps this book on course and resonates long after the book is finished. *I'm going to keep pressing this book into people's hands. We have a close relationship with a school in Haiti through our church. We send a team down every two years to help at the school and we have two young men who've graduated from that school who now live and work in Madison and attend our church. I want everyone to read it. I love it that much. The only way to get me to stop talking about this book is just to promise that you'll read it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Belle

    I’m willing to bump to 2.5 stars. This book was like a giant pot of vegetables that was meant to turn into stew but no one turned on the burner. All the ingredients but none of the flavor. There were so many ideas presented about economy, environment, Columbus shaming, religion all mixed up with bitterness towards her parents with no consistency in presentation from beginning to end. The writing style also needs work as there are chapters that are historical in nature alongside chapters that are I’m willing to bump to 2.5 stars. This book was like a giant pot of vegetables that was meant to turn into stew but no one turned on the burner. All the ingredients but none of the flavor. There were so many ideas presented about economy, environment, Columbus shaming, religion all mixed up with bitterness towards her parents with no consistency in presentation from beginning to end. The writing style also needs work as there are chapters that are historical in nature alongside chapters that are memoir based but then the historical chapters disappear and we mostly get a linear telling of a missionary story for the second half. So I think the main idea which didn’t really surface until page 230 is that missionaries in their altruism have harmed Haiti more than any help they’ve given. She did give many examples of this. It is a plausible theory. My recommendation? This author should attempt a rewrite of sorts. This author would be an excellent essayist. She has a lot to tell and I would be willing to listen in bite-sized, digestible essays.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This was a hard read for me because I don't believe in the practice of missionary work; however, I wanted a close look into the mindset or belief system (outside of religion) that compels individuals to go "save" other people. I think the author did a beautiful job paying tribute to her father and sharing how she coped and navigated their complicated relationship, as well as the country of Haiti. It would have been nice to hear more about the relationships they had with actual Haitians and how t This was a hard read for me because I don't believe in the practice of missionary work; however, I wanted a close look into the mindset or belief system (outside of religion) that compels individuals to go "save" other people. I think the author did a beautiful job paying tribute to her father and sharing how she coped and navigated their complicated relationship, as well as the country of Haiti. It would have been nice to hear more about the relationships they had with actual Haitians and how they were impacted or affected by their presence. I also had to force myself to continue reading, because it moved quite slowly.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) Irving’s parents were volunteer missionaries to Haiti between 1982 and 1991, when she was aged six to 15. Her father, Jon, was trained as an agronomist, and his passion was for planting trees to combat the negative effects of deforestation on the island (erosion and worsened flooding). But in a country blighted by political unrest, AIDS and poverty, people can’t think long-term; they need charcoal to light their stoves, so they cut down trees. Along with an agricultural center, the American (3.5) Irving’s parents were volunteer missionaries to Haiti between 1982 and 1991, when she was aged six to 15. Her father, Jon, was trained as an agronomist, and his passion was for planting trees to combat the negative effects of deforestation on the island (erosion and worsened flooding). But in a country blighted by political unrest, AIDS and poverty, people can’t think long-term; they need charcoal to light their stoves, so they cut down trees. Along with an agricultural center, the American Baptist missionaries were closely associated with a hospital, Hôpital le Bon Samaritain, run by amateur archaeologist Dr. Hodges and his family. Although Apricot and her two younger sisters were young enough to adapt easily to life in a developing country, they were disoriented each time the family returned to California in between assignments. Their bonds were shaky due to her father’s temper, her parents’ rocky relationship, and the jealousy provoked over almost adopting a Haitian baby girl. Irving drew on letters and cassette tape recordings, newsletters, and journals (her parents’ and her own) to recreate the decade in Haiti and the years since. This debut book was many years in the making – she started the project in 2001. “I inherited my father’s anger and his perfectionism. Haiti was a wound, an unhealed scab that I was afraid to pick open. But I knew that unless I faced that broken history, my own buried grief, like my father’s, would explode ways I couldn’t predict.” She and her parents returned to the country after the 2010 earthquake: they were volunteers with a relief organization, while she reported for the This American Life radio program. I loved the ambivalent portrait of Haiti and, especially, of Jon, but couldn’t muster up much interest in secondary characters, hoped for more discussion of (loss of) faith, and thought the book about 80 pages too long. Irving writes wonderfully, though, especially when musing on Haiti’s pre-Columbian history; I’d gladly read a nature book about her life in Oregon, or a novel – in tone this reminded me of The Poisonwood Bible. Some favorite lines: “If, like my father, you suffer from a savior complex, Haiti is a bleak assignment, but if you are able to enter it unguarded, shielded only by curiosity, you will find the sorrows entangled with a defiant joy.” “My family had moved to Haiti to try to help, but instead, we learned our limitations. Failure can be a wise friend. We felt crushed at times; found it difficult to breathe; and yet the experience carved into each of us an understanding of loss, the weight of compassion. We learned how small we were when measured against the world’s great sorrow.” Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    A missionary family moves to Haiti spending several years off and on, much to the dismay of their daughters. Apricot, the oldest daughter, has a troubled relationship with her father who seems to care more about Haiti, its trees, and people, rather than her family. Only as she marries and has her own children does she begin to understand her father, and realize she is like him in many ways. I especially enjoyed learning about what life was like in Haiti for this missionary family and how they acc A missionary family moves to Haiti spending several years off and on, much to the dismay of their daughters. Apricot, the oldest daughter, has a troubled relationship with her father who seems to care more about Haiti, its trees, and people, rather than her family. Only as she marries and has her own children does she begin to understand her father, and realize she is like him in many ways. I especially enjoyed learning about what life was like in Haiti for this missionary family and how they acclimated back to the U.S. after so many years abroad. An interesting life told with honesty and emotion. I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Ule

    This book didn't work for me, though Irving is a splendid wordsmith. If you're interested in daily life for expats in Haiti in the 1980s, there is interest here but I never connected well with the point of the memoir. This book didn't work for me, though Irving is a splendid wordsmith. If you're interested in daily life for expats in Haiti in the 1980s, there is interest here but I never connected well with the point of the memoir.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    “So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years. Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres. Trying to use words, and every attempt is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure. Because one has only learnt to get the better of words for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which one is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate, with shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mes “So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years. Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres. Trying to use words, and every attempt is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure. Because one has only learnt to get the better of words for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which one is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate, with shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mess of imprecision of feeling, undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer by strength and submission, has already been discovered once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope to emulate, but there is no competition. There is only the fight to recover what has been lost and found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions that seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss. For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” -T.S. Ellot As a young child, Apricot Irving and her sisters moved to Haiti with her missionary parents. They, as well as a fascinating and diverse group of missionaries they shared a compound with, all kept diaries which became the basis for this memoir. I will admit to approaching this book with a little trepidation. I love nature, I’m fascinated by Haiti, but would I really be interested in the story of missionaries trying to convert the people of an impoverished country to Jesus? While the missionary story is strong throughout the memoir, (how could it not be?) I was pleasantly surprised by Irving’s use of flashbacks to detail Haiti’s long and troubled history. From Columbus to Aristide, the Haitian people have suffered a seemingly endless amount of calamities, manmade and otherwise. Yet through it all, Haitians not only survive, they retain their optimism in the face of misfortunes that would break most people. Irving’s admiration for this spirit of the Haitians is evident throughout her writing and her wonderfully descriptive passages of the people they come to know and the land are beautiful. Yet there is so much more here than simple admiration for the perseverance of Haiti. There are serious and seemingly at times, intractable social and family issues at play as well. The main one being the spectre of Irving’s father, Jon. As turbulent as Irving’s relationship with Haiti is, it is even more so with her father. Jon is in so many respects a fascinating character. Incredibly dedicated to the planting of trees that he hopes will alleviate the devastating deforestation that has plagued Haiti since Columbus, he often has little time or interest in anything else, and in some heartbreaking passages shows a violent temper toward anyone (including his family) who doesn’t share his single minded passion. He comes across to the reader as a genuinely good man, striving to do good in the world, but seemingly unable to connect on a more micro level with his own family. Irving also does not shy away from the privileged place her family occupies in Haiti. Living and going to school in a missionary compound that is isolated from the Haitian people (servants and agricultural staff excepted), the economic and social disparity is stark at times and resentment often bubbles under the surface of most interactions. This comes to a head with the election of Jean Bertrand Aristide which set off a series of riots and violence directed at Aristide supporters but also directed at the missionaries as well. There are some truly harrowing passages describing the tensions and how cooler heads often, although not always, prevailed. The book closes with the events of the 2010 earthquake and the UN/NGO relief organizations that arrived soon after. Perhaps most people like myself hear that relief organizations are distributing food or clothing and feel a little better about man’s ability to help his fellow man. Irving however questions whether these efforts are truly helping as they should be. She cites the examples of NGOs choosing to import all of the supplies they need such as furniture, peanut butter (as Irving points out, if there is one thing has in abundance, it’s peanuts!) and other goods rather than buy them locally. Charity has its place but unless the local economy is being stimulated (the glut of some imported goods actually lowered prices and put some local merchants out of business) Haiti will never be able to stand on its own feet. Throughout history, the image of the White “hero” swooping in to “save” Haiti or other impoverished countries without giving any impetus or decision making to the country being saved is depressingly familiar. Or as Irving writes about her own family: “Always it was the same: We placed ourselves, like heroes, at the center of the story. As if it was our destiny to save Haiti. What we couldn’t seem to understand was that Haiti needed our respect, not another failed rescue mission.” Irving and her family undoubtedly started out on this rescue mission, however noble their intentions may have been. That she eventually arrives at respect is a credit to her and a lesson that anyone seeking to “save” a country would be well served to learn.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “The Gospel of Trees” by Apricot Irving, published by Simon and Schuster. Category – Memoir Publication Date – February 13, 2018. This book is much more than a memoir; it is a short history of the turbulent times in the country of Haiti. Apricot’s father was an agronomist. He was in love with nature and had a passion for trees. If you know anything about Haiti you would know that the small island country is almost devoid of trees. Trees are cut down to make charcoal and due to this deforestation th “The Gospel of Trees” by Apricot Irving, published by Simon and Schuster. Category – Memoir Publication Date – February 13, 2018. This book is much more than a memoir; it is a short history of the turbulent times in the country of Haiti. Apricot’s father was an agronomist. He was in love with nature and had a passion for trees. If you know anything about Haiti you would know that the small island country is almost devoid of trees. Trees are cut down to make charcoal and due to this deforestation there is nothing to hold back mud slides during the rainy season. Apricot’s father does everything he can to bring back the forests to Haiti. It is during this period that Apricot grows up and becomes aware of the problems with Haiti and the missionaries. The first problem is the governmental upheaval that is a part of Haiti. Papa Doc and Baby Doc who controlled and raped Haiti over the years to the defrocked Catholic priest Aristide. The second problem was that missionaries lived in a compound and became separated from the people they were trying to help. This is a good read that tells of a young girl growing up in a family that seems a bit out of sorts and a country that is in constant upheaval. Apricot has lived in a constant flux as to whether she was in love with Haiti or hated it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kend

    I will admit that I purchased this book out of sentiment, and the sense that Irving and I had lived parallel lives, a rare enough thing to find in memoirs. This did in some ways turn out to be the case, but not in ways that bolstered my enjoyment of the text in measurable ways. If this had been an impulse buy, perhaps I would not feel disappointed as I do, but I had to check four local bookstores and finally send off through Barnes & Noble to get a copy, then wait for its arrival. That kind of p I will admit that I purchased this book out of sentiment, and the sense that Irving and I had lived parallel lives, a rare enough thing to find in memoirs. This did in some ways turn out to be the case, but not in ways that bolstered my enjoyment of the text in measurable ways. If this had been an impulse buy, perhaps I would not feel disappointed as I do, but I had to check four local bookstores and finally send off through Barnes & Noble to get a copy, then wait for its arrival. That kind of passionate pursuit of a book is rare for me, and unfortunately I did not find that Irving's sentiments and experiences, as described here, repayed that faith in full. HOWEVER. This is a good book. It's only the fact that I had such high and intimately personal hopes for it that led to disappointment. So other readers' experiences with this book will be different. What do I mean by that? I mean that I, too, am a missionary kid. Not to Haiti, or any other war-torn or devastated country. But: a missionary kid. Born in the United States to scions of low-to-middle-income farming families. Went through middle and high school abroad. Dealt with culture shock. Had a distant father. A mother with frustrated ambitions. Wanted to be worldly (sometimes). Eventually grew apart from my hyperconservative religious origins. Am trying to find a way to reconcile my past with my present. I'm just ... I'm just a very different person from Apricot Irving. My path has led me to make peace with my queer/agender/nonbinary identity and therefore into unremitting conflict with my family, hers has led her to a somewhat conventional marriage and back into alignment to her family. We both seem interested in conversations about privilege and faith and mission, but I seem a lot more conflicted than Irving is (on the page, at least). And I'm frustrated at Irving's seeming reluctance to call things as they are, her father's physical and emotional abuse and Christian missions' exploitations and abuses not least among those. She has a social conscience, but she seems to deliberately suppress letting her present self comment on her past self's limitations and failures, and as a result I continually question whether or not she even realizes how problematic her and her family's attitudes and actions were. These aren't things I could forgive in myself as a writer, so I struggled to accept them in someone else's writing. Structurally speaking, it's also worth noting that the final third or so of the book dips more than a little into "disaster porn" or "disaster tourism," in that a white narrator travels to a disaster-struck country specifically to write about how tragic it is, how much she wants to help, and in so doing, make peace with her own relationship with that country ... which is never not going to be problematic. This is especially surprising/frustrating in that Irving uses and examines the term "white savior mentality" throughout the book. The disaster allows Irving to put her complicated feelings for her parents on hold, and leads to a deceptively saccharine ending. Three stars for an interesting premise, beautiful style and sentence-work, and a lot of blind spots.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen Germain

    Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of Apricot Irving's memoir, The Gospel of Trees, in exchange for an honest review. PLOT- Apricot Irving was in elementary school during the 1980's, when her parents accepted a missionary trip to the island of Haiti. She spent a majority of her childhood living in Haiti, with occasional trips back to the United States. Irving's memoir is about finding a sense of belonging, both as an American being raised in Haiti, and of trying to connect Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of Apricot Irving's memoir, The Gospel of Trees, in exchange for an honest review. PLOT- Apricot Irving was in elementary school during the 1980's, when her parents accepted a missionary trip to the island of Haiti. She spent a majority of her childhood living in Haiti, with occasional trips back to the United States. Irving's memoir is about finding a sense of belonging, both as an American being raised in Haiti, and of trying to connect with her father, who is temperamental and who often pushes aside the needs of his family in efforts to help his adopted country.  LIKE- The whole time I was reading The Gospel of Trees, I kept thinking about how Irving, who is just a few years older than me, was living such a dramatically different childhood than my own. Prior to moving to Haiti when Irving was six, her parents lived a simple life in the Coachella Valley, which is only a few hours from where I was raised in Glendale. Her mother dreamed of moving to a farm in Oregon, but was committed to raising a family with Irving's father, who wanted to make a go at farming near his family in Southern California. The missionary opportunity in Haiti came due to her father's agriculture expertise, as he was able to help the struggling island with farming and forestry. Living in Haiti was a complex situation. It's impossible to not have a place where you've made your home, especially one where Irving spent a majority of her childhood, not leave an imprint on your soul. Haiti is a very special place to Irving. It is a very special place to many of the missionary families who decided to move there, many making a life-long commitment. However, the missionaries are not always welcome. It's very complicated. Haiti is a poverty stricken country, that has a history of trauma. It was a former colony of both Spain and France, winning its independence through a bloody revolt. It was occupied by American forces during the WW1, who stayed for twenty years. Haiti has struggled for both its independence and to figure out its own government. It certainly doesn't help that it has been ravished by natural disasters. With all of this, it is very contentious when missionary families, mostly white missionary families, try to help. Beyond race, there is also an obvious class issue. The missionary families may be giving up a lot of comforts while in Haiti and they may be considered poor (as was Irving's family) back in America, but when compared to most of the Haitians, they are very well-off. Simply living in the missionary homes gives them comforts and safety that the Haitians do not have. Also, they can always leave. Irving does a solid job of explaining Haiti's history and way it impacted the island. Irving struggles with the poverty she witnesses and the realization that she is privileged. She feels an enormous sense of guilt, even from a young age, over this realization. Haiti is very much her home, but she also knows that she is an outsider. Her Haiti is not the same Haiti of the Haitians.  Irving's father is a complex and difficult man. He has high expectations for his daughters that are difficult to meet and it seems that his expectations are amplified, when he is in Haiti, a place with so much need. They live in close proximity to an orphanage and her father takes a shine to an infant named Ti Marcel. Ti Marcel is a miracle baby, rebounding from near death. Ti Marcel becomes part of Irving's household and the attention that her father gives to the infant creates a lot of jealousy in Irving. Ti Marcel will later be taken in by her own family members and moved far away. Irving's father orchestrates visits to see Ti Marcel as she grows up, visits that are filled with tension and awkwardness. Even Irving's mother felt jealous towards the attention her husband paid toward Ti Marcel. For her part, Ti Marcel does not remember the family that took care of her as an infant and the visits from this white missionary family are strange. Ti Marcel made a huge impact on the dynamics of Irving's family, but she does not really understand it. On a personal note, I visited Haiti in 2008, while on a Royal Caribbean cruise. RC has a private beach on the island, which they bring cruisers for day trips. It's is the most pristine and gorgeous beach that I've ever visited. It's paradise. It's also mostly isolated from the rest of the island and the Haitians. Really, we could have been anywhere and it didn't feel like we were on Haiti. We did a jet ski excursion and in the middle of the excursion, while we were as far away from the beach as possible, our guide had us stop. An elderly Haitian man paddled out to us in a canoe. He was rake thin, missing both legs and nearly all of his teeth. Our guide, a local, waited as the man made the rounds to sell inexpensive jewelry and other small crafts. Everyone bought something and it was a very uncomfortable experience. I'm pretty sure that RC did not authorize this aspect of the excursion, as it seemed that they were making all efforts to keep us as isolated from Haiti as possible. The day at the beach was carefully orchestrated. At the time, I knew next to nothing about Haiti. This isn't an excuse, but a fact. Now, I feel really uncomfortable knowing that I was enjoying an amazing, luxurious day at the beach, while extreme poverty was a stones throw away. I can't think of my wonderful vacation memoirs, without wondering at what expense it was to the locals. I can't get the elderly man in the canoe out of my mind. I'm sure that in some respects the tourism helps the local economy and is welcomed, but I'm more thinking that it's wrong to visit a country in such a limited capacity. It's  a facade to keep the tourists happy. Reading The Gospel of Trees has started to breakdown that facade. DISLIKE- Nothing. Irving's memoir is heartfelt, compelling, and thought-provoking. RECOMMEND- Yes! The Gospel of Trees is one of the best memoirs that I've read in recent memory. It's a wonderful blend of Irving's experiences with historical information regarding Haiti. I gained deeper insight into the long-term ramifications of colonialism and of the complex issues that Haiti continues to face.   Like my review? Check out my blog!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia

    This book really could have used a better editor. A lot of repetition and at least 50 pages too long. I expected something more compelling about the missionary life. Instead of this book please read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Sometimes fiction can feel more true than non fiction. It certainly can contain a more dramatic rendering of the truth.

  12. 5 out of 5

    CarolineFromConcord

    Author Apricot Irving's parents were missionaries in Haiti for several years starting in the 1970s, and Apricot's memoir evokes what the experience meant for her as a child, a teenager, and an adult. The vividness of her writing benefits from the fact that both parents kept diaries. Her own journal, which she started at a very young age, also gives both happy and bitter memories remarkable immediacy. Apricot's counterculture parents were people used to hiking long distances and sleeping under the Author Apricot Irving's parents were missionaries in Haiti for several years starting in the 1970s, and Apricot's memoir evokes what the experience meant for her as a child, a teenager, and an adult. The vividness of her writing benefits from the fact that both parents kept diaries. Her own journal, which she started at a very young age, also gives both happy and bitter memories remarkable immediacy. Apricot's counterculture parents were people used to hiking long distances and sleeping under the stars. They shunned middle-class materialism and thought nothing of raising children in a shack with an outhouse. (The family eventually included three daughters.) They got religion at a point in their marriage when Apricot's mother was fed up with Apricot's father and his remoteness. She was ready to split. A pamphlet left by her mother-in-law led to her epiphany. When the church the couple joined needed help at a medical mission in Haiti, Apricot's father (a hard-working farmer and forest ranger) found the mission's reforestation sideline appealing. Off they all went to save the poor people and tell them what was needed. Over the years, the family began to see that that's not how development is successful. They learned what Paul Farmer of Partners in Health had been preaching for decades in Haiti -- namely that the local people must lead. (Oddly, the famous doctor is never mentioned, suggesting to me there's some enmity.) The Irving family lived through years of getting trees started in the ravaged, depleted soil, where mudslides, destruction, and death were the norm, only to see the new growth eaten by goats or cut down for charcoal -- over and over and over and over. They lived through revolutions, political upheaval (sometimes aggravated by US military action), danger, and crushing disappointment, coming back to help any way they could after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Once back there, they relived all the ironies-- paying locals to plant trees, which enabled them to buy goats, which ate the trees. By this time they knew that buying imported furniture as NGOs demanded was wrong when desperate locals were struggling to keep their own furniture businesses afloat. They knew that forcing a flourishing local cooperative to meet an NGO timeline might be dooming it to failure. They agonized for the country they still loved. The author recounts the history of the island, going back to Columbus, who discovered what was then a lush paradise, eventually ruined by clearing the land for crops grown by slaves. And she gradually peals back the stages of her personal awakening, her conflicted feelings about the country, her wish to help, her understanding that although the job is never finished, you still need to do what you can and know that others will continue the work. I found that I liked Apricot a lot and admired her ongoing effort to find common ground with her demanding, sometimes cruel, father. I also admired her stalwart mother's efforts to bring cheer -- especially as the mission was falling apart and all the doctors and nurses and staff were feeling demoralized. You get to see the beauty of the country in this book and the different strengths of the people. And you especially get to see why decades of do-gooder initiatives were bound to fail. Not that the medical mission did no good at all -- many lives were saved, many people got jobs and other kinds of help -- but the model was unsustainable. I can think of so many people I know who would love this book -- people who work with immigrants from Haiti and elsewhere, tree people trying to protect the environment, people who love beautiful, honest writing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Apricot Irving moves from Oregon to Haiti in 1982, when she is six years old as her father takes on the job of teaching Haitians reforestation through a Baptist mission station. While Apricot, her mother and her two younger sisters are along for the ride, her father is filled with a zealous desire to "save" Haiti through reforestation. Using access she is given as an adult to her parents' journals from the time and her own memories, Irving creates a beautiful and painful memoir that critically e Apricot Irving moves from Oregon to Haiti in 1982, when she is six years old as her father takes on the job of teaching Haitians reforestation through a Baptist mission station. While Apricot, her mother and her two younger sisters are along for the ride, her father is filled with a zealous desire to "save" Haiti through reforestation. Using access she is given as an adult to her parents' journals from the time and her own memories, Irving creates a beautiful and painful memoir that critically examines her family's experience and also the missionary impulse in Haiti. In fact, as the title implies, Jon Irving's commitment is less to Christianity than it is to growth of trees. Jon's explosive temper was already evident before the move, and after, the problem becomes worse. While Apricot never describes violence against herself or her mother or sisters, Jon expresses frustration over the failure of some of his projects and the failure of his family to fully participate in his interests through outbursts that include throwing objects and overturning furniture. As the years pass, Jon becomes fully immersed in his projects, spending all his time and energy on this dream of reforestation. Apricot describes a feeling of "losing" her father to Haiti and its problems. When the family eventually returns home, the distant relationships seem unrepairable. But, Apricot realizes she too has fallen in love with Haiti and through the ensuing years, she returns as a journalist and eventually, when her parents return to Haiti for short term projects, she documents their work, recognizing the pull Haiti has had on her father and feeling the country has become her own true home. This memoir is honest in the author's refusal to provide neat closure. She criticizes the missionary impulse but also notes the good work done by her parents and their associates, especially the doctors and nurses at the mission hospital whose compound was the Irving's home base. But, the rifts in her family's relationships, the physical hardships that cost her mother her youth and enthusiasm, are not simply wrapped up neatly in a reconciliation at the end of the book. Excellent reading for anyone who is interested in Haiti and/or the purpose of religious missions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I won a copy of The Gospel of Trees in a Goodreads giveaway; this did not influence my review in any way. I've read a string of sub-par memoirs lately that left me doubting why I love the genre, so Apricot Irving's memoir came as a breath of fresh air. The amount of research Irving invested into this book is stunning; she not only culled through her own family's letters, newsletters, cassette tapes, journals and more, but she also presents an educated and unbiased view on Columbus, colonialism, s I won a copy of The Gospel of Trees in a Goodreads giveaway; this did not influence my review in any way. I've read a string of sub-par memoirs lately that left me doubting why I love the genre, so Apricot Irving's memoir came as a breath of fresh air. The amount of research Irving invested into this book is stunning; she not only culled through her own family's letters, newsletters, cassette tapes, journals and more, but she also presents an educated and unbiased view on Columbus, colonialism, slavery, natural disasters, and other topics intrinsic to Haiti's complicated history. Irving consistently displays admirable honesty and self-awareness, and despite writing about some topics that I thought might bore me (such as deforestation in Haiti), her writing is so lush and personal that the book is compelling in its entirety. The Gospel of Trees (such an apt title) is a window into her and her family's complicated relationship with Haiti and with one another, the benefits and perils of missionary life, and the complicated history of Haiti itself. While not a light read, Irving's book is inviting and informative, and always accessible.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Hard to review, as someone who spent my early 20s doing short / medium term mission trips with Baptists, and identifies as agnostic and deeply political now. I think in the end I wish this was a slightly different book. What it is: a memoir about a family, their time spent in Haiti, and the evolution of the author’s relationship with her dad and with Haiti. She looks in a real way at the problematic pieces of how mission work is / can be imperialistic, and how relationships with local citizens ge Hard to review, as someone who spent my early 20s doing short / medium term mission trips with Baptists, and identifies as agnostic and deeply political now. I think in the end I wish this was a slightly different book. What it is: a memoir about a family, their time spent in Haiti, and the evolution of the author’s relationship with her dad and with Haiti. She looks in a real way at the problematic pieces of how mission work is / can be imperialistic, and how relationships with local citizens get strange bc of this. She spends some small chapters on Haiti’s history, and political landscape. She talks a lot about ecological concerns, and deforestation (which is actually very rad given how little religious institutions seem to directly care about conservation despite the directive to be stewards). She covers a lot of ground, but I was left wishing for more depth— about her family’s actual faith and where she ended up, about her dad’s temper and reckoning with it, about Haitian citizens and their thoughts on the missionary presence, about the political landscape and how missionary money tied into what happened / happens over time. That’s on me, bc it seems that’s not what this book was for.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Rice

    Beautifully written memoir of a most unusual childhood, living in Haiti as the daughter of missionaries during turbulent times for that beleaguered nation. I particularly appreciated, and learned from, the bits of brutal history about the devastation and destruction that accompanied the arrival of white men, beginning with Christopher Columbus.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Welker

    As an ex-Christian who grew up in a church that treated missionaries like movie stars and who went on my own mission trip, Irving gives voice to the internal debate we face while abroad: Are we helping or are we hurting?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phee

    This was so good. I find missionaries stories so fascinating so to read a memoir about it was great. I also learned so much about Haiti and missionary life.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Beautiful writing. However, I remained disengaged.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    This is a Memoir of the oldest daughter of a missionary family. They first went to Haiti in 1982, way before the terrible earthquake. The book discribes the disappointments, the difficulties, and the triumphs of their family and the other missionary families there~ trying to make a difference in the lives of the people who live there. It's well worth reading~ for Christians~ especially those who have contemplated the mission field, or are supporting missionaries. Interesting side fact: I bought This is a Memoir of the oldest daughter of a missionary family. They first went to Haiti in 1982, way before the terrible earthquake. The book discribes the disappointments, the difficulties, and the triumphs of their family and the other missionary families there~ trying to make a difference in the lives of the people who live there. It's well worth reading~ for Christians~ especially those who have contemplated the mission field, or are supporting missionaries. Interesting side fact: I bought this book ( a paper back) at a Friends of the Library book sale. I think I paid a dollar for it. At the bottom of the cover it said : ADVANCE UNCORRECTED PROOFS-NOT FOR SALE. I wonder what the difference is between this "uncorrected proof" and the books now selling on line through Amazon ( and probably other book companies).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth Rider

    Couldn't finish, I got about one-third of the way in. I love memoirs, especially memoirs about time in countries other than America. The Gospel of Trees, though, was very history-heavy, and I found myself starting to skim over the history bits in search of what the author and/or her family did next. The writing is good, the author makes great use of metaphor and narrates well. The prose is natural, like the author is simply having a fireside chat with friends or family. Overall, the book isn't b Couldn't finish, I got about one-third of the way in. I love memoirs, especially memoirs about time in countries other than America. The Gospel of Trees, though, was very history-heavy, and I found myself starting to skim over the history bits in search of what the author and/or her family did next. The writing is good, the author makes great use of metaphor and narrates well. The prose is natural, like the author is simply having a fireside chat with friends or family. Overall, the book isn't bad, just blends genres a little too much and presents more history than memoir.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    I can't say that I loved this, but it was alright. It was interesting, at least. The story follows Apricot and her family through their missionary trips to Haiti. They were almost accidental missionaries, falling into the opportunity as her parents searched for adventure, but it soon became an obsession. Apricot's father was there as an agronomist, believing that trees were the key to a new flourishing Haiti. A lot of damage was done to both the island and its economy following the mass harvestin I can't say that I loved this, but it was alright. It was interesting, at least. The story follows Apricot and her family through their missionary trips to Haiti. They were almost accidental missionaries, falling into the opportunity as her parents searched for adventure, but it soon became an obsession. Apricot's father was there as an agronomist, believing that trees were the key to a new flourishing Haiti. A lot of damage was done to both the island and its economy following the mass harvesting of trees, first to clear land to grow coffee and sugar cane, then later to export timber and charcoal. Unfortunately, the trees were cut down faster than they could be replaced, and the damage to the land from erosion and other issues have been long lasting. I disliked Apricot's father. I'm not even certain his heart was in the right place, as his obsession with the trees, usually to the detriment of his family, seemed to be more about personal ego than actually improving the island. This book did teach me a few things, particularly about the history of Haiti and, perhaps mostly importantly, how damaging missionary work can actually be if it's not done correctly. I'm not sure if that was the author's intention, but there it is.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased opinion. The Gospel of Trees is Apricot Irving's memoir of growing up as a missionary's daughter in Haiti. Her father, Jon, was an agronomist who spent his time in Haiti trying to convince Haitians of the importance of planting trees for the local ecosystem. Apricot, her mother, and her sisters spent most of their time inside the missionary complex. Irving has relied on not just her memories and journals from her time in Ha I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased opinion. The Gospel of Trees is Apricot Irving's memoir of growing up as a missionary's daughter in Haiti. Her father, Jon, was an agronomist who spent his time in Haiti trying to convince Haitians of the importance of planting trees for the local ecosystem. Apricot, her mother, and her sisters spent most of their time inside the missionary complex. Irving has relied on not just her memories and journals from her time in Haiti, but the letters, journals, cassette tapes, and memories of others to reconstruct her childhood. She does her best to portray life in Haiti with all its best and worst parts on full display. She continues the book past their last stint in Haiti and into her adult life, as she tries to come to peace with her childhood. It is hard to imagine living the way the missionaries did in Haiti by choice. I was surprised that although her dad was a missionary, little of what he did seemed to be about preaching the gospel. The book definitely showed that missionaries have their flaws, just like the rest of us. I enjoyed reading about life in another part of the world.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Cobb Sabatini

    I won a copy of The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir by Apricot Irving from Goodreads. Apricot It's painfully, joyfully honest memoir about growing up as a member of a missionary family, The Gospel of Trees, is a candid look at family dynamics, missionary roles in struggling economies, and the nation of Haiti. Irving does not shy away from the mistakes and failures of missionaries, not from the mentalities she faced. Yet, she opens the readers' eyes and hearts to the beauties of Haiti and the possibilit I won a copy of The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir by Apricot Irving from Goodreads. Apricot It's painfully, joyfully honest memoir about growing up as a member of a missionary family, The Gospel of Trees, is a candid look at family dynamics, missionary roles in struggling economies, and the nation of Haiti. Irving does not shy away from the mistakes and failures of missionaries, not from the mentalities she faced. Yet, she opens the readers' eyes and hearts to the beauties of Haiti and the possibilities of volunteerism. Readers may come away with more questions than answers, such as: What role should charities play in struggling economies? What type of screening and training should be done concerning volunteers in foreign countries? The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir by Apricot Irving educated and inspires.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    A realistic view of missionary zeal in a land of profound and enduring need. I keep coming back to one passage, the writer’s own question: “The question I can’t escape (the question that underlies every missionary experiment) is: Should we have kept trying, even if we were doomed to fail?” And the answer to the question, as Irving notes, is yes but perhaps only if we can learn the significance of our small place of service in the face of intractable need. Irving quotes the Talmud as one way to t A realistic view of missionary zeal in a land of profound and enduring need. I keep coming back to one passage, the writer’s own question: “The question I can’t escape (the question that underlies every missionary experiment) is: Should we have kept trying, even if we were doomed to fail?” And the answer to the question, as Irving notes, is yes but perhaps only if we can learn the significance of our small place of service in the face of intractable need. Irving quotes the Talmud as one way to think of such a perspective: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, But neither are you free to abandon it.” A beautifully written coming of age story. I was particularly interested in the author’s eventual respect for her father’s stubborn commitment to “a gospel of trees.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Miriam Downey

    Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c... Apricot Irving looks back at her life as a child of missionaries in Haiti in the 1980s and 1990s in her memoir, The Gospel of Trees.. Her father, Jon, was an agronomist and went to Haiti to reforest the country. Sometimes his efforts were of little help, and his resulting anger and frustration led to a tumultuous family life. The family first went to Haiti when the three girls, Apricot, Meadow, and Rose were quite young; Apricot w Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c... Apricot Irving looks back at her life as a child of missionaries in Haiti in the 1980s and 1990s in her memoir, The Gospel of Trees.. Her father, Jon, was an agronomist and went to Haiti to reforest the country. Sometimes his efforts were of little help, and his resulting anger and frustration led to a tumultuous family life. The family first went to Haiti when the three girls, Apricot, Meadow, and Rose were quite young; Apricot was six. Jon traveled the countryside preaching the gospel of agronomy to reluctant farmers; his wife, Flip, taught school in the Jericho School, which was where the missionary children went to school. Through those years and from behind the walls of the missionary compound, the family experienced the turmoil that was Haiti —both political turmoil and natural turmoil. This is how Irving describes her book: “It’s a memoir in many voices about a fractured family finding their way back to each other through words. It’s a meditation on beauty in a broken world, loss and privilege, love and failure, trees and why they matter. It bears witness to the defiant beauty of an undefeated country.” Apricot kept a journal of her growing-up years in Haiti as did each of her parents. Her grandmother kept the letters that the family wrote home, and Apricot also had access to the newsletters that were written by the missionaries to the churches back home that sponsored them. When she gained access to this treasure-trove of information as an adult, she discovered that the narratives were not at all the same. The missionary newsletters told of a desperately poor country, in need of financial help, but the letters were always upbeat—changes were happening, progress was being made, lives were being saved at the hospital. Flip’s letters and journals were poignant and lonely. After one tour of duty, she didn’t want to be there anymore. She wanted to go home. Apricot’s narratives grew, as she grew, from eager child to resentful teenager. She says of the experience: “In church circles, being a missionary was almost as good as being a movie star.” On the other hand, the altruism of the mission director, the other missionaries, including her father, bred a type of hierarchy that could lead to devastation, resentment, and political complicity. Missionaries lived behind high walls. As Irving grew in understanding, she came to be resentful of the zeal that tries to change what can’t be changed. “God was already here.” Also: “Always it was the same: We placed ourselves, like heroes, at the center of the story. As if it was our destiny to save Haiti. What we couldn’t seem to understand was that Haiti needed our respect, not another failed rescue mission.” Irving returned in 2010 after a devastating earthquake to report for the radio show, “This American Life.” It was this experience that encouraged her to write up her memories, and her understandings, which had grown tremendously over the years. Her parents return time and again to try to help the Haitians solve their problems. Her parents were there yet again when Apricot came to report. Her realistic look at her parents, her father’s “savior” complex, and the difficulties of the life that they lived—along with the moments of grace and beauty—make for compelling reading. Through her writing, I understood Apricot’s plight as a child and teenager, and how her understanding grew when she returned. Certainly, she understood the reasons why her family wasn’t the “perfect” missionary family. As I read The Gospel of Trees, I remembered Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which, although fiction, has a similar feel to Irving’s book. Recently, as well, I was exposed to a book called Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World, but Changed America. David Hollinger, the author, claims that the American opinion of Asia was changed dramatically by the children of the missionaries who served in Asian countries. Irving makes the missionary experience much more human than divine.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janice Shull

    Apricot Irving tells a complicated story of Haiti and its significance to her family in The Gospel of Trees, a poignant and unforgettable memoir. Irving, a writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon, divided her growing-up years between the San Jacinto Valley in southern California and the barren mountains of northern Haiti. Jon Anderson, the author’s father, was an agronomist with a passion for trees. After failed attempts at farming in California, her parents responded to a call to serve Apricot Irving tells a complicated story of Haiti and its significance to her family in The Gospel of Trees, a poignant and unforgettable memoir. Irving, a writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon, divided her growing-up years between the San Jacinto Valley in southern California and the barren mountains of northern Haiti. Jon Anderson, the author’s father, was an agronomist with a passion for trees. After failed attempts at farming in California, her parents responded to a call to serve as missionaries in Limbé, near Cap-Haïtien, under the auspices of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society. Here, he found an outlet for his passion, the sharing of the gospel of trees. Farmers in Haiti burned the abundant trees to produce charcoal until the mountains were denuded of their forest cover, leading to soil erosion and massive flooding. Jon Anderson intended to convince the local farmers to plant trees and lots of them. His determination to succeed at all costs met Haiti’s stubborn resistance to change from outside influences. Irving tells a three-layered story. Her memories of growing up reveal a family constantly in the midst of turmoil and struggle. Their life together was never easy—tight finances, scant planning, repressed anger and disappointment—and Apricot sensed that others in her California high school saw her as deprived, while in Haiti her life was seen as that of a wealthy blan (white or foreigner). She eventually learned to appreciate Haiti’s wealth, its music and dance, color and language, so vibrant in comparison to her sheltered life in the missionary compound. The deprivation she felt was from her father who seemed cold and distant, absorbed completely in his work as failure piled upon failure of his reforestation projects. Irving the journalist reports on political and economic conditions in Haiti over a thirty-year period from the regime of Jean-Claude Duvallier to the aftermath of the massive earthquake in January 2010. She does not shy away from implicating the United States’ actions and policies in exacerbating extreme poverty in Haiti. But Irving probes further into the missionary movement and its effect on Haiti. Citing examples of unintended consequences from mission efforts to “help” the Haitians, she also lets the good intentions of the missionaries speak for themselves. Where does the missionary’s earnest desire to relieve suffering become an abuse of power and authority for the sake of “fixing” problems? Irving asks and answers this conundrum by quoting the Indigenous Australian artist Lilla Watson: If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together. Of those who worked within the outdated colonial power structures, Irving writes, in a passage of great clarity: Always it was the same: we placed ourselves, like heroes, at the center of the story. As if it was our destiny to save Haiti. What we couldn’t seem to understand was that Haiti needed our respect, not another failed rescue. The third layer of the story may be thought of as a meditation on trees. Trees are known to communicate with each other through networks of fungi, signaling stress and releasing nutrients to each other. By working together to promote growth, the entire forest is strengthened. Jon Anderson labored in Haiti to make real the psalmist’s vision, to restore the paradise of Ayiti which greeted Christopher Columbus , yet goats ate the seedlings which Anderson had planted with hope and farmers chopped down young trees to burn for charcoal. Despite such discouraging results, the gospel of trees bears fruit in many ways. The book’s final page is a parable of the zanmann tree, planted on the mission compound, threatened at first but then thriving and sheltering hundreds of people through the years. At last it began to show signs of approaching death, when it would decompose and enrich the soil for new growth. Irving’s book can teach us in so many ways. A lesson on simple living. A strategy for making peace with warring neighbors. A history class on the legacies of colonialism and Christian imperialism. A road map for discovering the world beyond our gated lives. Insight into family relationships, forgiveness and love. A hymn of hope for Haiti, and the world. Read it and learn.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barbara M

    I loved this book. It appealed to me on so many different levels. It is the author's first book. It is a memoir about Apricot Irving's life as the daughter of a missionary growing up in Haiti. Her father's project was helping the country reforest - planting seeds/trees all over Haiti. Her father preached "the gospel of trees." As a young child, she loved playing outdoors with her sisters and other kids. As a teenager, she found herself questioning her father's work and his devotion to it and rebe I loved this book. It appealed to me on so many different levels. It is the author's first book. It is a memoir about Apricot Irving's life as the daughter of a missionary growing up in Haiti. Her father's project was helping the country reforest - planting seeds/trees all over Haiti. Her father preached "the gospel of trees." As a young child, she loved playing outdoors with her sisters and other kids. As a teenager, she found herself questioning her father's work and his devotion to it and rebelling against the strict religious values of her father. I am not a history buff....however, there is a lot of really interesting history about Haiti in this book I realized I knew very little about the country. I did not realize that Haiti was the place where Columbus first landed. Apricot lived in Haiti with her family during political upheaval/takeovers. She talks about the various different regimes. One of the most thought provoking aspects of the book is the description of missionaries sent over to "save" a country vs. empowering the people of a country to help themselves and take over leadership. I thought this discussion was very well done and thought provoking. I also loved the theme throughout the book that no one person can do all the work alone in his lifetime....we can only do our small part....it is up to others to carry on... Apricot leaves the country with her family to attend the end of HS and college in the US. She returns as an adult to cover a story about the aftermath of the earthquake. Her parents are also there again doing relief work. Although Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, Apricot helped me to see the beauty of the country and the strong spirit of the people. It's an incredibly interesting and well done memoir. I learned a lot reading it. I hope Apricot Irving writes another book!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    I loved this book. It was the story of a couple who were missionary agronomists. They take their 3 young daughters ( Apricot, Meadow, and Rose ) to Haiti to share the love of God and plant trees. The story begins in the 1980's and ends in 2016. The story covers the trials of the missionaries through the many political upheavals, arguments with the Baptist mission boards, hurricanes and the earthquake of 2010. There were parts of the story that were mildly reminiscent of Poisonwood Bible and The I loved this book. It was the story of a couple who were missionary agronomists. They take their 3 young daughters ( Apricot, Meadow, and Rose ) to Haiti to share the love of God and plant trees. The story begins in the 1980's and ends in 2016. The story covers the trials of the missionaries through the many political upheavals, arguments with the Baptist mission boards, hurricanes and the earthquake of 2010. There were parts of the story that were mildly reminiscent of Poisonwood Bible and The Glass Castle. The story is told by Apricot who was 9 when her family moved to Haiti. She grows up and returns to the states, but she goes back again and again as a writer and to help her parents who are still trying to stop the deforestation. This books covers history (Columbus and the killing of the Taino Indians), science and every range of emotion. The writing is artistic and compelling. One of my favorite quotes: "It felt suddenly absurd that as missionaries we had come to teach Haitians about God. God was already here. Maybe our only job was to bear witness to the beauty - and the sorrow without denying either one."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This memoir of the author's time growing up as part of missionary life in Haiti was a little bit of a hard read for me. The prose is absolutely beautiful-you really get a sense for both the ambience of life in Haiti in that time (90's into 2000's) and the political upheaval as well. I'm not totally sure why it was such a hard read-I told a friend that it felt like the kale of memoirs. I think it's because Irving starts out the book by talking about how her father was violent towards the family i This memoir of the author's time growing up as part of missionary life in Haiti was a little bit of a hard read for me. The prose is absolutely beautiful-you really get a sense for both the ambience of life in Haiti in that time (90's into 2000's) and the political upheaval as well. I'm not totally sure why it was such a hard read-I told a friend that it felt like the kale of memoirs. I think it's because Irving starts out the book by talking about how her father was violent towards the family in the midst of all the angst of trying to "save" Haiti but it seemed like it evolved into more of a story where she points out guiltily over and over again how everything that they did was wrong for the country. I understand her points, I just felt like the reader kept getting hid over the head with them. It left me with a lot of questions about how missionaries could really help the areas that they travel to but no real answers. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for an ARC of this book in return for my honest review.

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