Author: Allison Rushby
Publication Date: July 1, 2018
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Allison Rushby is an author I didn’t remember being familiar with, and I have been sitting here procrastinating and thinking that the name looks familiar. So, I have been doing some checking stuff out and I have read Allison Rushby previously, I reviewed The Heiresses back in 2013.
The Mulberry Tree is a middle grade fiction suitable from about age 9, it’s a little spooky but still age appropriate. I haven’t given this one to my older two yet because to be totally honest I think they are both in a place where they would see the page count and say no.
Immy and her parents run away from their problems in Sydney to a tiny English village. They have put together a wishlist for what they want in their new house and the houses they are shown through just don’t quite tick their boxes, until they drive past one that wasn’t on the agent’s list. This is the perfect little cottage to begin their new life, except for the scary looking mulberry tree in the back garden.
The family are determined that this is the one, even after they hear the legend about the tree stealing away girls living in the cottage on the eve of their eleventh birthday. This is a modern family, they don’t believe in village legends and are sure there must be another explanation. The problem with that is that when the entire village has spent generations in the area they are much less likely to dismiss the stories.
If Immy had been a little older it probably wouldn’t have been an issue but the tree is said to take the girls on the eve of their eleventh birthday and Immy’s is coming up in a month.
Rushby has woven a dark and disturbing mystery around the disappearance of the two girls, decades apart and decades ago. Immy is trying hard not to be worried but also wants to get to the bottom of the mystery. She ends up doing some detective work of her own and I quite enjoyed following that story arc. It was fantastical in parts but we’re talking about a tree that steals pre-teen girls so a little fantastical is to be expected.
The Mulberry Tree may seem like the story of an evil child stealing tree on the surface but there is so much more to it than that. Rushby explores all of the things that go along with a big move, starting a new school, making new friends and being caught up in the crossfire of embarrassing parents. Immy has the added challenge of living in the house with the tree, the house everyone crosses the street to avoid walking in front of. She has moved to a town with very few girls and very strong superstitions. Very few girls mean that friendships can be quite closely held in fear of being passed over and that causes quite a bit of friction which is also explored.
The move to England was so that Immy’s mum could work in a special hospital near Cambridge but it was also a good opportunity to take Immy’s dad away from the things causing him a lot of stress. He is suffering and it is affecting the whole family. Rushby gently explores forgiveness and understanding. Immy is given some wise advice when she is told that nothing is completely evil (or something to that effect, I of course can’t remember and now can’t find it) and so she starts to apply that to the situations in front of her; opening up whole new perspectives.
Looking at a situation from a new perspective can often offer a completely different understanding which opens new avenues to solutions. I really liked how this came together and Immy resolved the issues she was faced with, and started to help her dad come through the other side of his suffering by recognising his struggle and his efforts and offering support.
The Mulberry Tree is quite an intriguing read, I have a couple of pre-teens I think might enjoy it. I love how the ending came together but I still can’t quite grasp how it worked but that’s because it’s something I struggle to get my head around, I think I try too hard to analyse the hows.
The Mulberry Tree is book #34 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.
Thanks to Walker Books Australia 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading The Mulberry Tree with their children, I look forward to hearing what they think. Please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.