Strange Horizons, July 16, 2018
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
“The Trees of My Youth Grew Tall” by Mimi Mondal takes place in India, during the late colonial period. The narrator is a woman whose ancestors lived arboreal lives. Her people now till the soil, but still spend as much time as possible in trees. When the government appropriates their land, the woman and her adult son move to the city. They live on what the son can make as a construction worker. Because of his background, he is better at climbing than anyone else. However, he has no other wage-earning skills. He is briefly tempted to join a gang of thieves, but soon repents. One day he disappears. The rest of the story deals with the woman’s life, as she survives as a beggar, servant, and cook. Many years later, she learns her son’s fate.
The speculative content is minimal. The only fantastic element is the extraordinary skill both mother and son have at moving among treetops and other high places. Otherwise, this is a realistic tale of poverty and oppression. The author writes with clarity and vividness, making the setting come to life. The plot is episodic. Many characters who seem important appear, but quickly vanish. The ending is anticlimactic. Overall, this story is enjoyable, but leaves the reader wanting much more.
Victoria Silverwolf lives among tall trees.