The Roots of the Olive Tree
Courtney Miller Santo
Morrow, Aug 21 2012, $25.99
In 2006 in Sacramento Valley, five generations of firstborn females live together at Hill House. The matriarch is hundred and twelve years old Anna who has been a widow since 1934 and her three sons died over a half of a century ago; she has one daughter Bets who is eighty-nine years old. Bets gave birth to sexagenarian widow Callie (and four other offspring). Callie had fortyish Deb who just was paroled after two decades in prison for murdering her husband; she gave birth to twenty-something pregnant Erin with no spouse.
Four of the quintet welcome geneticist Dr. Amrit Hashmi who has their permission to study why these females live so long. Bet is the lone hold-out as she knows secrets that no one else, including her matriarchal family members are aware of; secrets she wants left concealed.
This is an odd entertaining family drama in which each first born female possesses different personalities while affirming the problems of bickering generations living under the same roof through first person accounts from the rotating quintet and others including media. With a nod to the Old testament “begat”, the seemingly more important segues are not deeply explored (for example, an affair and a first born son); thus keeping the storyline shallow. Still fans who enjoy something different in epic family plots will want to visit Hill House.