Christine Nolfi was the very first author to ever request a review from me when I started this blog; after I read and loved her debut, Treasure Me, I immediately agreed to read and review her second novel, The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge, when she approached me about it. Although a good year passed in between when I read her first novel, and when I eagerly read this one, the effect was the same once I started Tree: I immediately fell all over again for Christine's writing and her way of creating characters that feel at once familiar, like old friends.
Main characters Ourania and Troy crackled with their own individual personalities, as well as their barely contained sexual tension. It was at once clear that there was something unresolved between these two, and as I read more, and began to like and care for both of these tormented characters, their pasts became clearer, and my heart went out to each of them. Throughout Tree, we're given glimpses through a dual POV into both Troy and Ourania's thoughts and motivations, and we see both sides of their tangled story. Still dealing - poorly - with their shared loss of a loved one, both Troy and Ourania have taken equally dangerous paths in their life, which has led them both to become deeply unhappy. I wanted to alternately hug and shake each of them for being so dense at times, yet so intuitive at others.
Nolfi effortlessly built layer after layer upon the foundation she laid early on in Tree; with her easy to follow, easy to love writing style, she weaves several character's stories into one another, yet does so in a way that never feels too tangled. The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge is many things: a romance, a mystery, a social commentary on the foster system and how it works and does not work at times, a mystery, and a moral lesson. What I loved best were the relationships: Ourania and Troy, Troy and his parents, Ourania and her foster children, sweet Walt and broken Emma, Ourania and Troy's sister. All of the characters, even the minor ones, were definitely well developed and stood out strongly in my mind, even after finishing Tree!
Christine Nolfi kept me guessing at various plot twists, which I applaud. Tree had so much going on, but not in a cluttered way - it was definitely a well-rounded mystery, thriller, and romance all at once. As the pages grew numbered, my heartbeat increased, and I found myself genuinely scared for the characters, as past secrets came to life to threaten them in present day. And at Tree's end, although everything was wrapped up a bit too neatly for my taste (my only real complaint), this novel is still emotionally satisfying in many ways!