Two Trees Make a Forest

Two Trees Make a Forest : On Memory, Migration and Taiwan

3.51 (1,093 ratings by Goodreads)
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I have learned many words for 'island': isle, atoll, eyot, islet, or skerry. They exist in archipelagos or alone, and always, by definition, I have understood them by their relation to water. But the Chinese word for island knows nothing of water. For a civilisation grown inland from the sea, the vastness of mountains was a better analogue: (dao, 'island') built from the relationship between earth and sky.

Between tectonic plates and conflicting cultures, Taiwan is an island of extremes: high mountains, exposed flatlands, thick forests. After unearthing a hidden memoir of her grandfather's life, written on the cusp of his total memory loss, Jessica J Lee hunts his story, in parallel with exploring Taiwan, hoping to understand the quakes that brought her family from China, to Taiwan and Canada, and the ways in which our human stories are interlaced with geographical forces. Part-nature writing, part-biography, Two Trees Make a Forest traces the natural and human stories that shaped an island and a family.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 124 x 198 x 22mm | 200g
  • Virago Press Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0349011044
  • 9780349011042
  • 84,338

Review quote

A finely faceted meditation on memory, love, landscape - and finding a home in language. Its short, shining sections tilt yearningly towards one another; in form as well as content, this is a beautiful book about the distance between people and between places, and the means of their bridging -- Robert Macfarlane A beautiful, fully-realised tribute to a family and a brave, diligent search for understanding in the mist -- Amy Liptrot A subtle, powerful exploration of the relationship between people and place, and a luminous evocation of an extraordinary landscape -- Melissa Harrison Two Trees Make a Forest takes a twisting path through mountain passes, over tree roots, by spoon billed birds and into a family's past. In this thoughtful memoir, Lee asks the reader to wonder, what makes a homeland? Is it language, family, landscape? I was left with a full heart and a longing to learn the name of each tree that lines my own past -- Rowan Hisayo Buchanan Both clear-eyed and tender hearted, Two Trees Make a Forest is a profound and gorgeously written meditation on the natural and familial environments that shape us. Jessica J Lee is a poetic talent keenly attentive to the mysterious and sublime -- Sharlene Teo Beautiful -- Melissa Harrison * Observer * [A] luminescent exploration of family and landscape in Taiwan . . . The book details Jessica J. Lee's family's displacement from China, their migration to Taiwan after the Second World War and then to Canada in the 1970s, alongside Taiwan's turbulent history and a portrayal of the mountainous, cloud-forested island itself . . . Lee's description of her own journey through the Taiwanese landscape [...] combines a botanist's precision with a poet's eye and ear . . . In Two Trees Make a Forest, Lee has created a powerful, beautifully written account of the connections between people and the places they call home * Times Literary Supplement *
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About Jessica J. Lee

Jessica J. Lee is a British-Canadian-Taiwanese author, environmental historian, and winner of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award. She received a doctorate in environmental history and aesthetics in 2016, and her first book, Turning, was published in 2017. Jessica is the founding editor of The Willowherb Review. She lives in Berlin.
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Rating details

1,093 ratings
3.51 out of 5 stars
5 18% (195)
4 33% (359)
3 34% (376)
2 13% (138)
1 2% (25)
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