Title: A Dream of Trees
Author: Samantha Sotto
Genre/Themes: Emotional Drama, Magical Realism
Blurb from Goodreads
The door never changes, but the rooms behind it do.
Since she woke up without any memory of her past, Shiori has been thrust into a life of walking through a mysterious door and visiting people in their last moments. The door takes Shiori and the souls to rooms containing the present, past, and possibility, experiences the souls need to finally move on. Shiori is resigned to a life without a past, until she learns that like the people she visits, she is dying too. And Shiori knows too well what happens to people who die without knowing who they are. They get lost.
Shiori races to discover her past, accompanied by Aiden, a man who will be dead by morning. While Shiori remembers nothing, Aiden cannot forget a single moment of his life, no matter how hard he tries.
Together, they journey through burning rooms, dark rooms, rooms with monsters and angels, and rooms that aren’t rooms at all. As they piece together Shiori’s past, they learn the truth that lives between the border of loneliness and living, forgiveness and freedom, and death and dreams.
“Every action we do, nurturing or not, has a response. It is the essence of what life is –a conversation. The moments we are truly alive are the moments that we share with someone else. Outside of that, we are just eating, breathing, and sleeping, biding our time until we die.”
In A Dream of Trees we follow the story of Aiden and Shiori, two people who somehow exist in that moment between life and death.
Shiori doesn’t remember anything of her own life except her name and her love of bonsai trees. She finds herself tasked with helping souls move from this life into death; guiding them through doors into rooms with echoes of their past life and enabling them to find peace from whatever torments had been both troubling and preventing them from being able to let go of their former lives.
Aiden is a man dying who Shiori meets in this plane between life and death. He has an eidetic memory and is therefore unable to forget the painful memories that plagued his life.
The two characters come together, firstly under the guise that Shiori is guiding Aiden through his memory rooms and helping him to find peace. But when Aiden doesn’t recognise the rooms that Shiori has guided him into we learn that Shiori too is dying and that the rooms are relevant to her life’s story. However, unless she can remember who she is before she finally dies, she will become a lost soul.
The book follows these characters as they both try to piece together how their lives were connected and to ultimately work out the meaning behind it all.
“A name is only important when there is someone around to call you by it.”
Reading this was a deeply moving experience. I felt so many times that my own thoughts and feelings about how I view myself were somehow poured into these pages. I think that’s what is so wonderful about Sotto’s writing. Although this story is very much of a fantastical nature, there is so much humanity in the book that it feels totally authentic and honest.
There are fascinating insights into the ways human beings hold on to their pain and suffering and how they let it twist into personal monsters and demons that can never be escaped without learning the true value of self-acceptance. But most importantly the story is of learning to forgive oneself for things that were either out of your control or for those times that fear guided our actions.
“Scars aren’t memorials to pain. They’re proof we’ve found the strength to heal.”
I am such a fan of Sotto’s style of prose. It’s immediately accessible but with this gorgeous lyrical quality. The narrative of this book moved at the most sublime pace; quick enough to really keep me invested in the plot but also languid enough to really stir my thoughts and feelings on all the themes raised by the story.
And the characters… They were so relatable! The two main characters, Shiori and Aiden, were both written in such a fashion that I really could empathise with both of their stories. They were fully fleshed out with so much care given to their actions, thoughts and character motivations that they really came alive on the page. And all the secondary characters perfectly complimented the main story with no character ever feeling unnecessary or there just for the sake of a plot twist/development.
This book filled my heart with so much emotion. This is the second book by Samantha Sotto that I have had the pleasure to read and I have to say that she has become one of my favourite authors. Her words and stories are simply beautiful.
If you’re a fan of magical realism and simple love stories that truly illustrate the human condition then I highly recommend any of her books.
“That’s what pens, socks, and hair ties do. They get lost. But when you have only one pen in the world, everything changes. You guard it with your life. Sometimes, I think that this is how things should be. You cherish one thing fiercely without any backups or Plan Bs. But nothing lasts forever and all pens run dry. Loss is always on the other side of contentment.”