The Tree: Tales From a Revolution — New-Hampshire
by Lars D. H. Hedbor
Having previously read almost every Hedbor book written, it was a delight to see this author’s latest, The Tree: Tales From a Revolution — New-Hampshire, recently peeping from my postbox. That right there should give readers an immediate heads up that opening a new tab for book buying is in order. I enjoy Hedbor’s characters, the diversity of which is impressive indeed—diversity not being used for its own sake. It speaks to his research capabilities and creative skills that the author could come up with the individuals and backgrounds he has, and realistically reflects our history and why those who populated it perceived events as they did. A Spanish sailor, breakaway loyalists, Quaker congregation, freed slave, grownups and youth, male and female—the list goes on, but one thing they all have in common is their ordinariness. Through Hedbor’s storytelling charms, we see not only victors, nor just the elite: we see us.
Trees are symbolic of much in our histories and spiritual intellect, not least of which is the ideal of life and liberty, both growing entities requiring nourishment. Abe’s father, a lumber cutter, realizes both ideals as he embarks upon a career providing lumber for London housebuilding, though the king’s mast laws regulate which pines he may use, despite them standing on Sawyer’s own property. Not unlike medieval forest laws, violations are punishable by jail or, preferable to the government, fines, which are little more than veiled taxes. Unrest is growing over this oppression, and when Abe is suddenly orphaned, he must take over the management duties against this backdrop as he navigates his auntie’s negative personality and a strange new friendship with Betty and her ever-present raven companion.
As always, Hedbor’s people occupy a skillfully managed narrative in which historical remoteness dissolves and we witness their daily lives amidst this growing upheaval. One we are unsure is trustworthy, another a milquetoast with dreams of a thieving bird in service to the king, and still another an outsider with a mysterious past. The author does, however, leave plenty of space for the development and distribution of secrets and intrigue, and the tension builds as each person’s character arc, to varying degrees, flowers in the pursuit of the liberty to be. This occurs in various forms, most notably the acquisition of a skill that nourishes liberty, a circumstance that in turn reflects the reality of life paired with death and the ongoing sacrifices required for it to flourish. It is a sober set of thoughts for people whose lives will soon be lived amidst the fire of war as they uproot and are uprooted while they simultaneously plant the tree of liberty still referenced by Americans today.
One thing I like best about these tales is the inclusion of food, and Hedbor has a knack for fitting it into the narrative without ruffling the fabric of the story. Abe’s spinster Aunt Rosanna, for example, makes her way partly by selling eggs, even through the bitter months:
She pointed to a barrel in the corner of the kitchen. “Since we’re coming into the winter season, the chickens won’t lay as much until spring. Some have already slowed down, because of their molt. We need to put eggs away for the winter, and they go in that barrel. Once there are enough to make a layer, we’ll cover them with the slaked lime I’ll keep in the pitcher beside it. Preserves them all through the winter, so it’s worth the expense.”
Also utilizing his linguistics background, Hedbor portrays a woman whose no-nonsense perspective is reflected in the words she omits as much as those she chooses. Economic sentences, often harshly delivered, stand opposite those of Abe’s earnest and unsophisticated nature. Like the raven, who seems to show up around every corner these days, however, he is observant, and asks himself questions even if he doesn’t always verbalize them. This facilitates his friendship with Betty, as Hedbor seamlessly weaves together these and other elements of a story that provides both a broad understanding of how and why the New Hampshire colonists took one step closer to revolution, and a closer view of the individuals of that colony, who, without these Tales From a Revolution, would remain hidden within the shadows of history.
One of the most gripping of all Hedbor’s Tales, I was unable to put this book down and read it in one sitting. As readers proceed through events in the novel, especially knowing many are drawn from the documented history of New Hampshire’s 1772 Pine Tree Riot, we grow a better understanding of the colonists’ grievances and why they acted as they did. Once again Hedbor restores humanity to figures who were real, living people as opposed to those who existed in a distant and vague era. We grow to care about them both as characters as well as the ancestors of ours that they are. Thought-provoking to say the least, this is a rewarding read that will remain with readers long after the last page is turned.
To see information on each book, click here.
Really fun interview with Lars Hedbor here.
You may also wish to have a peek at my previous reviews for
Tales From a Revolution—
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About the author ….
What made the American Colonists turn their back on their King, and fight for independence? How were they different from us–and how were their hopes and fears familiar to our own hearts?
These are the sorts of questions that I think are important to ask in examining the American Revolution, and in the pages of my novels, I suggest some possible answers.
My first novel, The Prize, was published in 2011, followed by The Light in 2013, and The Smoke, The Declaration, and The Break in 2014; The Wind was published in 2015, and The Darkness in 2016.
I’ve also written extensively about this era for the Journal of the American Revolution, and have appeared as a featured guest on an Emmy-nominated Discovery Network program, The American Revolution, which premiered nationally on the American Heroes Channel in late 2014. I am also a series expert on America: Fact vs. Fiction for Discovery Networks, and was a panelist at the Historical Novel Society’s 2017 North American Conference.
I am an amateur historian, linguist, brewer, fiddler, astronomer and baker. Professionally, I am a technologist, marketer, writer and father. My love of history drives me to share the excitement of understanding the events of long ago, and how those events touch us still today.
Author photo courtesy Lars D.H. Hedbor
Free copy of The Tree provided by author, with no expectation of a full review.