cover image The Widow Tree

The Widow Tree

Nicole Lundrigan. Douglas & McIntyre (PGW, U.S. dist.; HarperCollins Canada, Can

45 C.E.: a doomed Roman soldier conceals his precious savings in a jar in the ground before falling victim to a Pannonian bandit. Almost two millennia pass before the trove is uncovered by three Yugoslavian teens, Nevena, Dorján, and János, in 1953. Nevena, daughter of the local kommandant, believes the treasure should be turned over to the government, but János, son of a man victimized by the current regime, sees in the gold a rare chance to escape poverty and social isolation. In the wake of the discovery, János vanishes with the gold, leaving his widowed mother and his friends to wonder about his fate; the grim answer to their questions will soon become all too apparent. Lundrigan’s (Glass Boys) sketch of a small Balkan village in the years following WWII is a sympathetic but unflinching examination of the troubled heritage of that region. Despite what amounts to a conspiracy of silence amongst the adults, the divisions between the three friends reflect the underlying tensions that shattered Yugoslavia decades later. Horrifying but fascinating, the story is enthralling. Agent: Hilary McMahon, Westwood Creative Artists. (Dec.)