Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
The Witness Tree by Terri Morrison Kaiser is a heart-wrenching story of love and loss. One hundred years ago, on the banks of the Redemption River in Wisconsin, a tree was designated as the boundary marker for the adjacent property. This tree was named The Witness Tree. The tree stood as a bystander seeing all, even after a storm caused it to collapse. Or could it be the burden of knowing so many secrets that hollowed the tree to the core? One fateful day, a young boy climbs the trunk and finds skeletal remains hidden inside. No one in Peeksville, WI was prepared for the discovery, especially Helen Foley. Helen and her family had once lived on the farm bordering The Witness Tree. After Helen’s mother Esther dies, Helen sells the farm, hoping to leave the past in the past. She moves into town, trying to escape the memories of her unfortunate childhood. Yet, the past has a way of returning in unexpected ways. The Witness Tree wants its story told, whether Helen wants it or not.
Terri Morrison Kaiser pens an exceptional story in The Witness Tree. Kaiser’s writing style is beautifully descriptive, drawing the reader into the setting. You feel and experience the river’s power, the yearning for love, and the desperate pleas of hope, the bruising of both body and soul as you see through the eyes of The Witness Tree. The poetic artistry of the tree and the sparrow are eloquently meaningful; these two symbolic metaphors battle against the raging conflict, their essence breathes life and hope into heartbreak. The characterization is written masterfully. Both main characters share their stories. From chapter to chapter the perspective changes from Esther’s to Helen’s point of view. The plot builds, the intensity peaks as each woman reveals what has been hidden away for years. The question, will history repeat itself, is the fibrous fearful theme weaved throughout the tale. Through the denouement, Kaiser’s expert storytelling heightens, and then becomes shockingly revelatory, blending the then and now. The Witness Tree is brilliantly riveting from beginning to end.