Note: This is not a real critique, but an exercise by the author about her own unpublished book.

The Bended Tree should be chopped down

Lewis’ debut, The Bended Tree, has a few bright spots in storytelling, but misses the mark on overall plot and characterization.

The Bended Tree is a story about a young boy, John Caton, who’s idyllic life in Beloit, Wisconsin is shattered when his beloved mother dies during the 1918 flu epidemic. For reasons not quite understood by the reader, he is sent away, along with his newborn sister, to an orphanage in Sparta, where he is treated brutally by the headmaster.

John (who’s name is confusingly changed to Harry after he refuses to talk when he arrives at the orphanage) befriends a troubled orphan named Jack. Together he and Jack escape the orphanage, get on an orphan train and are each taken in by families who mistreat them. John escapes and meets a number of clichéd characters as he rides the rails – some who help him and some who do not – until he lands on a farm in Minnesota with a family that is too syrupy sweet to be real. They adopt him and a story that started out as honest to the difficulties that a child like John would have endured, ends up corny and unlikely.

Lewis does a good job of drawing the reader into the story at the start and uses some nice historical references. In addition, she has a knack for describing painful scenes in an honest and heartbreaking way. However, the author adds too many motifs and implausible coincidences and the book has plot holes throughout. In summary, the reader is never fully captivated by the lead character.

This reader trusts that if  the author has plans to write another book, she will take more time to learn her craft.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dayner
    Feb 17, 2010 @ 22:30:50

    Wow, what an interesting exercise. I don’t think I could ever write such a concise review of any book, much less my own. Maybe you should be a book critic? At any rate stay away from my book, your honest review my break my heart 🙂
    I’m sure you’re being overly critical of yourself, every first draft has–how did you say– ‘too many motifs and implausible coincidences’ not to mention plot holes. That’s what editing is for.


    • kathanink
      Feb 18, 2010 @ 13:24:12

      I know, everyone thinks I’m being too hard on myself…but the exercise was to write the story as it is now, which is full of too many motifs and implausible coincidences! 😀

      You’re write, though, I could never be as hard on your book as I am on mine…besides, critics are supposed to be very objective and I tried my best to do that.


  2. Natasha
    Feb 17, 2010 @ 20:58:53

    What a good exercise! I’ll bet you learned a lot doing this, and got some decent ideas for editing The Bended Tree.

    You might be, as DS suggested, just a tad hard on yourself, though…..


  3. darksculptures
    Feb 17, 2010 @ 12:06:14

    I would venture to guess that you might be a bit hard on yourself with this. Judging by the expertise in which you wrote this critique, one would have to assume the novel mimics this style in much the same manner.


    • kathanink
      Feb 17, 2010 @ 14:41:49

      Not at all, I mean the voice is much different in my book. I tried to get into the head of a person writing an article or critique to make it sound real.. 🙂

      But seriously, I have evaluated the flaws in my mss, and they are significant! At any rate, Bell suggests you write an honest critique, just like this, of your mss. It was helpful to get the main flaws, as well as a few highlights, down on “paper.”


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