The Tree Doctor: A Novel (Paperback)

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The Tree Doctor: A Novel By Marie Mutsuki Mockett Cover Image

The Tree Doctor: A Novel (Paperback)


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Staff Reviews

I was immediately engrossed by Mockett's beautiful descriptions of the natural world and the garden that is so much at the heart of this novel. She weaves the life cycle of a garden and the complexity of The Tale of Genji so expertly with the uncertainty of the early days of the pandemic and our narrator's own rediscovery of herself. I couldn't put it down.

— Cat

A startling, erotic novel about the need to balance care for others with care for one’s self

When the unnamed narrator of Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s stirring second novel returns to Carmel, California, to care for her mother, she finds herself stranded at the outset of the disease. With her husband and children back in Hong Kong, and her Japanese mother steadily declining in a care facility two hours away, she becomes preoccupied with her mother’s garden—convinced it contains a kind of visual puzzle—and the dormant cherry tree within it.

Caught between tending to an unwell parent and the weight of obligation to her distant daughters and husband, she becomes isolated and unmoored. She soon starts a torrid affair with an arborist who is equally fascinated by her mother’s garden, and together they embark on reviving it. Increasingly engrossed by the garden, and by the awakening of her own body, she comes to see her mother's illness as part of a natural order in which things are perpetually living and dying, consuming and being consumed. All the while, she struggles to teach (remotely) Lady Murasaki’s eleventh-century novel, The Tale of Genji, which turns out to resonate eerily with the conditions of contemporary society in the grip of a pandemic.

The Tree Doctor is a powerful, beautifully written novel full of bodily pleasure, intense observation of nature, and a profound reckoning with the passage of time both within ourselves and in the world we inhabit.

Marie Mutsuki Mockett is the author of a previous novel, Picking Bones from Ash, and two books of nonfiction, American Harvest, which won the Nebraska Book Award, and Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye, which was a finalist for the PEN Open Book Award.
Product Details ISBN: 9781644452776
ISBN-10: 1644452774
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Pages: 256
Language: English

A Washington Post and Oprah Daily Most Anticipated Book of 2024

“Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s luminous new novel provides the hope and beauty we need after the isolation and disillusionment of the pandemic. . . . This coming-of-middle-age novel—a rarely dramatized but radically important stage in women’s lives—will leave me thinking for a long time.”—Celeste Ng

“Well-written with glorious descriptions, The Tree Doctor is a highly recommended tour de force.”—Geza Tatrallyay, New York Journal of Books

“This is a wonderful novel, wise and sensitive, and a stunning reflection on how we reinvent ourselves when we're left with no other choice.” —Michael Schaub,

“Mockett’s writing is a steady marvel of intensity: spiky, smart, curious; ripe with penetrating insights and frank bewilderment. . . . Mockett has created a palpable, vibrant, wonderfully realized world.” —Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle

“Juggling the demands of caregiving, teaching, and a budding affair with an arborist, this sensual and profound novel is an exploration of the natural cycle of life and death, echoing themes of The Tale of Genji.”Oprah Daily, "Most Anticipated Books of 2024"

“Through a yearning first-person narration, the protagonist’s trials evoke difficult but vital questions about survival and endurance. . . . These interrogations are threaded seamlessly into the narrator’s pursuit of her own power, a pursuit that reveals just how liberating the decision to dismantle and reassemble one’s self can be. An affecting story of personal transformation, as broody as it is erotic.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Mesmerizing . . . . The Tree Doctor explores one woman’s sexuality at a time of life rarely written about, during a time in history that we are only now beginning to process. A beautiful and evocative, necessary book.”—Marcy Dermansky

“The Tree Doctor presents a formal counterpoint to the standard, mostly masculine representations of midlife crises, which rely on a rising tension that leads to climax. Instead, this novel unfurls like a female orgasm, expansive, like a blush, ripples of pleasure that repeatedly suffuse the body and recede again.”—Anita Felicelli, Alta Journal

“Bold, erotic. . . . [Mockett's] prose is as lush as the garden in the woman's Carmel home.” —May-lee Chai, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“This is a gorgeous and completely unique novel, bristling with life like the garden it describes. It is melancholy, erotic, hopeful, meditative, frightening, and even funny—a book about solitude that is never lonely, a book that is both timeless and utterly contemporary. I finished it grateful to Marie Mutsuki Mockett for this orgy of sensory pleasures, and this opportunity to pause and consider life in a time of collective fear and uncertainty. A balm to the spirit and a lovely work of art.”—Lydia Kiesling

“Like the best of literature, The Tree Doctor allows us to see ourselves, but reading this beautifully honed story is also an act of healing. Every page brought new color, feeling, and wisdom into my life, changing me, not unlike the narrator’s mended cherry tree with its surprising spring blooms. Marie Mutsuki Mockett is an exquisite writer.”—Alan Heathcock

“Mockett’s writing is exquisite, but this novel seduces with its honesty about our physical lives—the flaws, the fears, the joys, and the needs. She’s unafraid to make a reader laugh and unafraid to face the kind, messy, beautiful conclusions that will linger with you for quite a long time.”Oprah Daily, “Best New Novels of Spring 2024”

“Sex, death, rebirth, and literature—it’s all here, in one astonishing book. The Tree Doctor made me want to go have an affair!”—Gish Jen

“This finely-calibrated, groundbreaking chronicle of one woman's midlife awakening captivated me from the very first sentence. With deadpan humor and deep compassion, Marie Mutsuki Mockett perfectly captures the vast social, political, and cultural changes wrought by the pandemic, spinning them into a gorgeous, utterly original novel. I loved it.”—Joanna Rakoff

The Tree Doctor is a remarkable novel: sexy and profound, cerebral and corporeal. Never before have I been so turned on by trees and flowers, or laughed so much about the mysteries of sex and sexual desire. Marie Mutsuki Mockett depicts grief and self-discovery with such beauty and restrained vulnerability. I loved being in the singular world of this book.”—Edan Lepucki

"What I love about Marie Mutsuki Mockett's work is every book has its own unique concern, landscape, texture, mood. The Tree Doctor is unlike anything I have read. In it Mockett tells many stories at once: how the most luscious flora coexist among the mundane and often impossible concerns of suburbia and cities; how reckonings operate when you are mother and daughter and wife and lover; how illness makes its way from the personal to the universal and back again—and more! A California book, a pandemic novel, a cautionary tale, a romance in which descriptions of plants brush up against scenes of global catastrophe and build into thrilling sequences of forbidden love. This is a novel to highlight and underline, to get lost in, to dream of, to share, to study, to surrender to. "—Porochista Khakpour

“In her brilliant second novel, Mockett delicately combines how we approach time and mortality.” —Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times