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The Island of Missing Trees


Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 

"A wise novel of love and grief, roots and branches, displacement and home, faith and belief. Balm for our bruised times." -David Mitchell, author of Utopia Avenue

A rich, magical new novel on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. 

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he's searching for lost love. 

Years later a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited--- her only connection to her family's troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.

A moving, beautifully written, and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history, and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak's best work yet.

“Shafak’s novel conveys how our ancestors’ stories can reach us obliquely, unconsciously … Shafak is cleareyed about how difficult it is to reach across the gulfs within our families.” - The New York Times Book Review 

“A poignant novel of love, grief, and the generational trauma ... a worthy read for our times, when so many conflicts have driven people to flee, carrying with them the horrors of war and the grief of leaving their homelands and loved ones behind.” - Foreign Policy 

“A commentary on the bitter legacy of war .... [and] also a commentary on the folly of our adversarial relationship with nature and our refusal to learn from the flora and fauna with which we share the planet ... [Shafak] understands the interconnectedness of all things great and small.” - Claire Messud, Harper's 

“The Island of Missing Trees isn’t just a cleverly constructed novel; it’s explicitly about the way stories are constructed, the way meaning is created, and the way devotion persists ...[Shafak is] that rare alchemist who can mix grains of tragedy and delight without diminishing the savor of either. The results may sometimes feel surreal, but this technique allows her to capture the impossibly strange events of real life.” - Ron Charles, The Washington Post 

“This tragic tale tempered by enduring love and a fantastical ending is an overall triumph.” - Shelf Awarness (starred review) 

“Shafak’s writing is magnetic, and while reading, one is completely absorbed by the world of both Cyprus and London.” - Alma.com, "Favorite Books for Fall 2021" 

“A beautiful nod to an individual finding a place in a big world.” - The New York Post 

“Shafak amazes with this resonant story of the generational trauma of the Cypriot Civil War.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review 

“Ambitious, thought-provoking, and poignant.” - Kirkus Reviews 

“An enthralling, historically revelatory, ecologically radiant, and emotionally lush tale of loss and renewal.” - Booklist (starred review) 

“Rich and tender… Shafak bridges the disconnect so many of us feel in these times between our technology-glutted, hamster-wheel lives and the grounding comfort of the natural world.” - Washington Independent Review of Books 

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