06 June, 2008

Review: The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As she was packing, I stood off to the side, mostly watching. Supposedly, I was there to help with heavy items, but she kept going through the lightest things, and all I could do was just stand by awkwardly and keep her company.

It was weird, I guess, listening to her troubles. Her husband isn't exactly the greatest guy out there, but she feels stuck in her life with him because of the child. Their little girl requires special care, and it would be extremely difficult to do what is best for her if they were to separate.

But then, in between bringing up another horror story of the worst kind, she pauses, having noticed a book--_the_ book. El Arbol Generoso (in English: 'The Giving Tree'). It is a few moments before she remembers me.

"Eric," she finally begins, "this book is my mantra. This book is who I _am_, and I want you to read it." With that, she hands the book over to me.

I am momentarily dazed. The book is in spanish, yet I speak the language only very poorly. But I open the book anyway. After all, it is a children's book with lots of big pictures. Maybe I'll be able to muddle through it.

Those next few minutes made me _feel_. Oh, how I felt. I was unable to rush through it, because I had to translate as best as I could with my limited spanish. Every sentence--every word--had full effect on me. It tore at my heart, made me cry, yet also it was so very beautiful that I felt I was soiling it with my hands as I turned each page.

I did not deserve to read that book. Not then. Not there. But I did anyway. And it was amazing.

When she saw how moved the book made me, she gave me the book on the spot. I tried to refuse, but she insisted. It was one of the top five gifts of my entire life.

Today, El Arbol Generoso holds a place of honor on my desk at work. It stands between my phone and my computer monitor, accompanied only by a few photos of those I love most. My other books rest on a bookshelf, but Shel Silverstein's masterpiece is displayed prominently to remind me each day of true beauty.

If you haven't read The Giving Tree, then you need to. But don't just flip through it at a bookstore. Take it home with you and wait until the time is right. And take your time with each page. Believe me: it will be worth it.

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