THE CALEB TREES by Dee HolmesJove Books, September 2000
Meg DeWilde knows her life isn't perfect. Still, her 16 year-old son Caleb's grades have taken a turn for the better and he seems happier. Caleb's suicide stuns her and her entire family. Meg cannot give up the obsession for seeking the reason for Caleb's suicide--the incident that drove a popular teenaged boy to his death.
While Meg searches for a truth the police warn her she may never find, her husband Jack is trying to extract himself from his own terrible mistake--a sexual interlude with a co-worker. Jack had rejected Caleb's desire to pursue a professional baseball career and wonders if he might be the cause that Meg is looking for. At the same time, their daughter Bethany rebells, calling for the attention that neither can offer, yet that Bethany so badly needs.
Teen suicide is one of the most emotionally wrenching events imaginable. In THE CALEB TREES, Dee Holmes skillfully weaves these emotions with the destructive force of adultery to capture the reader at a level far below the intellect. Any parent will sympathize with Meg's need to understand her son's motives, even when she knows how terrible the consequences of learning may be. In many ways, Jack's stubborn recognition of his own failures--both as a husband and father--make him the central character of the novel. He, more than Meg or Bethany, has the desire to struggle forward despite the terrible tragedy.
Although Meg's driving desire to find the cause of her son's death is understandable, THE CALEB TREES leaves it to the reader to ask the ultimate question--did finding the answer truly resolve anything? Jack's efforts to move forward without obsessing over a tragedy deserved better than the snippy rejection that Meg offered him. Jack's sexual misconduct reduces his credibility, but he may have been right. The reader is left with questions--and perhaps the urge to remind that teenaged child how much they really are loved.
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