cover image Tree by Leaf

Tree by Leaf

Cynthia Voigt. Atheneum Books, $15.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31403-2

Set on the New England coast in the summer of 1920, Voigt's beautifully written novel traces the course of a few eventful days in Clothilde Speer's life. Clothilde, 13, lives in genteel poverty with her mother, sister and brother; her father has just returned from the war, alienated and horribly scarred. Slowly revealing Clothilde's life, the plot defies encapsulation, but it turns sharply on a single moment, which may or may not be a dream. It's an ambiguous encounter, an almost transcendental conversation with a God-like Voice. Afterwards, Clothilde seems to have the ability to see into other people's minds and understand deeply what pain they feel, as if she's been given some of the Voice's omniscience. Her sudden insight and compassion is not so much magic as growth, and when Voigt has woven together her themes of love, war and loss, it is miraculously convincing and moving. Ages 9-13. (March)