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Publisher's Summary

A haunting, suspenseful literary debut that combines a classic coming of age story with a portrait of a fractured American family dealing with the fallout of one summer evening gone terribly wrong.

“The night we left Ellen on the road, we drove up the mountain in silence.” 

It is the early 1980s and 15-year-old Libby is obsessed with The Field Guide to the Trees of North America, a gift her Irish immigrant father gave her before he died. She finds solace in “The Kingdom”, a stand of red oak and thick mountain laurel near her home in suburban Pennsylvania, where she can escape from her large and unruly family and share menthol cigarettes and lukewarm beers with her best friend. 

One night, while driving home, Libby’s mother, exhausted and overwhelmed with the fighting in the backseat, pulls over and orders Libby’s little sister Ellen to walk home. What none of this family knows as they drive off, leaving a 12-year-old girl on the side of the road five miles from home with darkness closing in, is what will happen next. 

A Crooked Tree is a surprising, indelible novel, both a poignant portrayal of an unmoored childhood giving way to adolescence, and a gripping tale about the unexpected reverberations of one rash act. 

©2021 Una Mannion (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about A Crooked Tree

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  • Barbara S
  • 2021-01-23

enjoyable listen

What drew me to this novel is the premise that a mother kicks out of the car her 12 year-old daughter after the girl was being a bit cheeky. I think we all know of someone who was kicked out of their car as a child. My mother kicked out my 2 brothers on a rural road in South Dakota. I was horrified. But what my brothers did was go through a barbed-wire fence and start walking in the corn fields. The corn was so high that they were disappearing. I screamed at my mother, who did stop, honk the horn and drive in reverse to get the boys. I’m not sure where they thought they were going, but we were a resilient bunch, and it was in full daylight.

In “A Crooked Tree”, 15 year-old Libby narrates the story which begins with Ellen being kicked out of the car, 5 miles from home at dusk. And the mother goes home! She leaves a 12 year-old to fend for herself in her Catholic School uniform in the dark! We learn that her mother isn’t the most stable mother. She frequently leaves her five children alone.

What broke my heart is that the children were too afraid to seek adult help. They feared their mother. They also wanted to protect their mother. Ellen does get picked up, after hitch-hiking, and needs to throw herself out of a moving car because that was the safest option given the driver was creepy. Plus, she didn’t want her mother to know because her mother would be angry that she hitch-hiked. So basically, when the mother was errant in her maternal duties and something went wrong, she blamed the children.

Thus, we have a story of uncertainty. While Libby is a mature 15 year-old, she is confused about what she should tell adults and who she can trust. She fears authority, as many 15 year-olds do, especially while being a teenager. Author Una Mannion does a fabulous job narrating from a 15 year-old’s conflicted and confused mind. Libby is attempting to navigate high school. She’s noticing boys. She’s trying to figure out what is right and wrong. Ellen’s event is traumatic, but Libby soldier’s on through her summer, babysitting and on the cusp of adulthood.

The story is really about Libby’s summer during 1981 when no one had cell phones or computers (or few did). It’s a time, pre-technology, in which children did have a few more freedoms. This is a coming-of-age story which will bring you back to those years when you were uneasy, lacking confidence, frustrated, and confused. Libby starts noticing adults, and parents. She compares her life with others, trying to figure out what is “normal” and what is a happy family.

I listened to audible production, performed by Sophie Amoss. It was an enjoyable listen. Libby’s narration will take you back to those awkward years.

13 people found this helpful

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  • SKNew
  • 2021-01-27

So perfect

Performance (pacing, voices) was excellent. Yes, a coming of age story but so rich in the details. Rolling Stones quotes. The trees and woods. Smoking weed, How friendship works. How parents fail. How children just haven’t seen enough of life to make good decisions all the time. Well done Una Mannion.

4 people found this helpful

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  • IOP Reader
  • 2021-04-18

Go for it if you’re a 13 year old girl

Otherwise, stay clear. For a reason I can’t fathom, Audible recommended to me. This reads like young adult literature (and perhaps it is). Plodding story line, simplistic prose with teenage characters.

I will pay closer attention to future recommendations

3 people found this helpful

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  • Nitenurse
  • 2021-03-21

Disappointed

I feel cheated. This debut novel could have been so much richer had the characters been fleshed out. I wanted to know more about the mother, more about the family landscape/dynamics.

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  • DC
  • 2021-01-31

Nostalgic coming of age

Family drama novel recounting a defining moment in a teenage girls life.
I wish the author had stepped up the pace of the story.

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  • AC Reeves
  • 2021-01-13

Una Mannion brought me home

I grew up in New Jersey around same time as Libby our heroine, was growing up in PA.

Una’s writing allowed me to fall back into that time and remember those teenage formative years.
I look forward to reading more of Una’s novels in the future! I LOVED A Crooked Tree

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  • Lola
  • 2021-09-22

So Slow…

I had an extremely hard time paying attention…it just seemed to drag on going nowhere.

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  • Kelsey Nordby
  • 2021-09-14

Meh


The story matches the cover. It's just random winding into nothingness. There really feels like something is lacking. Also there are a few crunchy parts and the lack luster story made it not worth sitting through.

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  • Donna Geoghan
  • 2021-09-07

Loved everything about this book

….except for the sad feeling I had after I finished it. The story is great, with lots of nostalgia and suspense. The narration was perfect! The story brought me back to both the time and place, and while not a mystery, it was suspenseful and joyful at the same time. It made me sad because of the “last time I ever” situations that we all experience growing up. Enjoy!