Janine Donohue’s daughter, Sophie, is like any other eight year old girl, with one exception. She has a chronic kidney disease that threatens her life and keeps her from being able to do things other children take for granted. Desperate to give her daughter a chance at a normal life, Janine enrolls her daughter in an experimental drug trial, which alienates Janine’s parents and husband. The results are nothing short of miraculous and Sophie flourishes and feels better for the first time in her short life. Janine allows her to go on a Girl Scout trip, but the consequences are more dire than anyone can imagine when Sophie doesn’t return home and evidence of a car wreck is found. Janine refuses to believe her daughter is dead and frantically searches with her ex-husband for Sophie, who will die if she’s unable to take her medication. Sophie is taken in by a woman living in the woods and her journey back to her parents, as well as their search for her, is the central plot of the novel.
The Courage Tree is a simple book with a plot that resolves into a happily-after-ending, but don’t let the fact this is an easy read fool you. Diane Chamberlain has created one of the most powerful sets of characters I’ve ever read. Janine and her ex-husband, Joe, have dedicated their lives to caring for Sophie, and their differing opinions on what’s best for their daughter has pushed them apart. Sophie is a strong young lady who knows how her treatments work, can self-advocate and knows what will happen if she doesn’t take her medication. The fact that she can speak for herself touches my heart, as I have a niece with a chronic illness, and she’s the strongest person I know. There are a couple of deus ex machinas that I could have done without, but they are easier to overlook than you might think. On the surface, this novel may appear to be an easy beach read, but Ms. Chamberlain’s ability to depict the overwhelming love parents have for their children and their desperate attempts to keep their children safe made it a very touching novel. If this doesn’t seem like the kind of book you’d enjoy, I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.
4 stars out of 5 (can’t give 5 stars because of the plot twists which seemed a little cheesy, but it’s still a good book)