The Island of Missing Trees: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Published : 02 Nov 2021
  • Pages : 368
  • ISBN-10 : 1635578590
  • ISBN-13 : 9781635578591
  • Language : English

The Island of Missing Trees: A Novel


"A wise novel of love and grief, roots and branches, displacement and home, faith and belief. Balm for our bruised times." ―David Mitchell, author of Utopia Avenue

A rich, magical new novel on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he's searching for lost love.

Years later a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited--- her only connection to her family's troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.

A moving, beautifully written, and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history, and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak's best work yet.

Editorial Reviews

"Shafak's novel conveys how our ancestors' stories can reach us obliquely, unconsciously … Shafak is cleareyed about how difficult it is to reach across the gulfs within our families: At the end of the novel, Ada is only beginning to learn about her history, and her grief." - Ron Charles, Washington Post

"Chapter by chapter, the book moves back and forth across several decades, solving some mysteries and raising others …The Island of Missing Trees isn't just a cleverly constructed novel; it's explicitly about the way stories are constructed, the way meaning is created, and the way devotion persists. As an author, [Shafak is] that rare alchemist who can mix grains of tragedy and delight without diminishing the savor of either. The results may sometimes feel surreal, but this technique allows her to capture the impossibly strange events of real life." - New York Times Book Review

"Images of transformation and transition gracefully emerge and recur as Shafak explores what love can and cannot heal. Her moving depiction of inherited trauma will stay with readers, as will her insightful nods to war's effects on the natural world…this tragic tale tempered by enduring love and a fantastical ending is an overall triumph." - Shelf Awarness (starred review)

"A commentary on the bitter legacy of war .... [and] also a commentary on the folly of our adversarial relationship with nature and our refusal to learn from the flora and fauna with which we share the planet … the scope of her thematic ambition is impressive, and [Shafak] is a compelling storyteller. She writes as well about teenage irascibility as about profound human suffering, and, like the wise fig tree, understands the interconnectedness of all things great and small." - Claire Messud, Harper's

"A beautiful contemplation of some of life's biggest questions about identity, history and meaning." - Time, "Most Anticipated Books of Fall"

"Shafak's writing is magnetic, and while reading, one is completely absorbed by the world of both Cyprus and London (the story switches time frames and locations with ease) and the grief of the characters is palpable. And, in a narrative choice I loved, it's partly narrated by the fig tree in the backyard. You don't want to miss this one." -, "Favorite Books for Fall 2021"

"A book about belonging and identity, a fig tree serves as the only symbol of history and connection to the island Ada Kazantzakis lives. It's a beautiful nod to an individual finding a place in a big world. As Reese Witherspoon's November pick in her book club, The Island of Missing Trees is one of those books with a touching message you'll want to soak into this winter." - The New York Post

"Shafak amazes with this re...

Readers Top Reviews

GwennJudith C. Morri
Hard to describe but it’s a wonderful book that covers love, loss, science, history, and superstition in a lovely story
ellen gottlich
This Beautifully written tale is a heartbreaking story of the impact of the Greek-Turkish conflict on Cypress on multiple generations even those post conflict. The most brilliant conceit in this book is the use of the Fig Tree narrator The tree provides an unbiased and broader historical view of the conflict, not only on humanity but on the flora, fauna and soil of the island; a frequently overlooked perspective
Carol Kessler
Or it may be the people around it who give it its magic. I loved reading this where the fig tree was as important as any other player in the book. It is a moving tale of people, love and political factions, sadly the factions that split Cyprus.
My class stopped off in Famagusta Cyprus in May of 1974 in an attempt to reach Egypt after a sojourn in Israel. Alas, we didn’t make Egypt but had a quick immersion in the life of Cyprus; truck drivers who shared their cigs with me (after rejecting my menthol one ) and a truck driver who sang wedding songs. We toured a 12th century church and I replaced my worn suitcase with a red leather one. We were shocked and saddened, upon our return to the States, to see news footage of desolate towns and resorts following the invasion of Turkey that September. This book evoked bittersweet memories of an enchanted land.
J. Eckert
Story told from a fig tree’s perspective seems like an odd choice, but it works so well for this story. It’s a great story, and I enjoyed learning about the island of cypress, and about the trees, birds, life above and below. So many live stories folded into this book!

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