Goodreads: The Silver Bough
Published: December 26, 2006
Nestled on the coast of Scotland, Appleton was once famous for its apples. Now, though the orchards are long gone, locals still dream of the town’s glory days, when an Apple Queen was crowned at the annual fair and good luck seemed a way of life. And outsiders are still drawn to the charming village, including three very different American women.
Enchanted by Appleton’s famously ornate, gold-domed library, divorcée Kathleen Mullaroy has left her cosmopolitan job to start anew as the town’s head librarian. Widowed Nell Westray hopes for a quiet life of gardening in the place where she and her husband spent their happiest moments. And young Ashley Kaldis has come to find her roots, and learns that the town’s fortunes turned when her grandmother was crowned Apple Queen–then mysteriously disappeared.
When a sudden landslide cuts Appleton off from the wider world–and the usual constraints of reality–the village reveals itself to be an extraordinary place, inhabited by legendary beings, secret rooms, and the blossoming of a rare fruit not seen in decades. Most unexpected is a handsome stranger who will draw all three women into an Otherworld in which luck and love will return to Appleton–if only one of them will believe.
The Silver Bough promises readers a magic-touched story that takes place in a charming Scottish town on the border of two worlds. What it actually delivers is a bewildering mess of a tale, tangled up by too many points of view and seasoned with too many fantasy elements.
The official summary promises three main female protagonists, but readers also get occasional looks into another character’s POV, so the organization of the story is a bit wild from the start. Worse, however, is that I can’t really say what multiple POVs add to the story. I think at least one of the women, Ashley, could have been cut as a character entirely. She doesn’t add much to the plot, and the story would have been more streamlined (and logical) without her.
The writing also bogs the story down, as Tuttle is obsessed with backstory in the form of info dumps. The book is actually fairly short, yet I probably know more about the characters and the history of this imaginary town than I know about some of my actual friends or the place I grew up. I was tempted to DNF quite early in the novel because of this. It’s boring and, like the choice to add so many POVs, doesn’t seem to accomplish much for the story. However, I chose to power through.
Yet the plot doesn’t redeem these two flaws either. Readers on Goodreads are categorizing the book as “magic realism,” and I think that’s an impulse that comes from the fact the magic in the book is rather inexplicable. I felt as though Tuttle took a book of magical creatures and just dumped a bunch in. As Appleton merges more and more with some fantasy realm (that’s never truly explained or described), the characters have various random run-ins with magical creatures. Sometimes it’s an actual minor plot event. And sometimes some magical creature just flies by and someone gives an academic description of it. I wasn’t really invested in any of it.
I liked the concept behind the book, but it doesn’t play out the way I was expecting. The fantasy element is simply bewildering, and there’s not much romance here either. The summary, and the early chapters, set up readers to expect some of the classic “hot Scottish guys” who pepper romance, but they didn’t materialize. I wish I had something more positive to say about this book, but boredom and confusion were my primary emotions while reading it. It has a relatively low Goodreads rating, and it’s well-deserved.