Thursday, November 8, 2012

"The Roots of the Olive Tree"

Courtney Miller Santo grasped the importance of stories from listening to her great-grandmother. She learned to write stories in the journalism program at Washington and Lee University and then discovered the limits of true stories working as a reporter in Virginia. She teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she earned her MFA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Irreantum, Sunstone, and Segullah.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Roots of the Olive Tree, and reported the following:
There can be loveliness in the arbitrary. At its core, The Roots of the Olive Tree, is about complicated and fraught relationships of five generations of women. The book is divided into five sections—each told from the point of view of a different one of the Keller women. This structure reveals the truth of their lives by weaving together all the ways in which the women see themselves and each other.

However, page 69 doesn’t deal primarily with this aspect of the novel and instead focuses on Erin (the youngest character) and her decision to leave her job and her life in Rome and return to the small town in Northern California where she grew up. As she’s leaving for the airport, she has a conversation with a cab driver and he uses the phrase “women of my heart” to describe how he loves and misses his own family. For me and for Erin, this is the moment where the arbitrary becomes lovely.

These women are Erin’s heart and they are my own heart. I hope that as the readers work through the year of incredible change with the Keller women that they also become close to their own hearts.
Learn more about the book and author at Courtney Miller Santo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue