Twentyone Olive Trees helps the reader, someone who has been touched by a traumatic loss, understand that beauty can come even from the most painful and inexplicable life experiences.
Laura Formentini lost her son to death by suicide at 21 years old. She wrote this book as a project to help her understand and heal and in the process created a beautiful piece of art that can help others sit in their grief and feel the feelings they need to feel as they progress through stages of anger, understanding, healing, and transformation.
The book is filled with poems that show the transformation in Laura's journey of grief, fables with morals that reflect the wisdom Laura and her son Blaise gained during the years they spent living and traveling together and the lessons Laura learned in loss, as well as beautiful illustrations. The fables take a childlike, intimate look at coping with loss and embracing acceptance. The sweet lessons will speak to the griever’s heart. Lessons that teach us that our loved one is always with us, whether we can see them or not.
The first fable “Camel and Spider” ends with this message. “Silly Camel, I’m right here with you, even when I’m not with you.” Camel looked at the moon visible in the afternoon sky. “You’re in the moon. You’re in every grain of sand. I can’t see anything without seeing you, Spider.” This book is inspirational in nature and is intended to help those who are seeking to heal after a life event that is difficult to understand or process. The book does not tell them how to feel or how to overcome or change, it simply allows them to sit with their feelings while reading the small lessons on grief and loss that Laura experienced in her journey.
It is a beautiful book that is unlike memoirs or self-help books that may prescribe a way to heal. This book allows you to take a journey in a non traditional manner, allowing you to process the pain and set your own timeline on healing.
Threading it together: the myriad of feelings that Formentini experienced and meditated upon throughout the healing process, as she found in writing a way to process grief while also helping others. Through her well-crafted prose and verse, she shares stories of overcoming hardships and sadness, using animals, nature, and mythical characters in a way that makes difficult subjects gentler and easier to broach. (“Silly Camel,” a spider says, “I’m right here with you even when I’m not with you.”) Her characters find their way through personal perseverance, the help of friends, and acceptance of who they are.
In addition to Formentini’s writing, the beautiful illustrations by Marit Cooper enhance each fable with memorable renderings of story and character. Cooper includes the most intricate details mentioned in the tales, as well as the recurring figure of Naeltim, the sylph of the air, who plays a special role in every fable, all with simple yet meaningful olive branches woven throughout. This moving collection is a testament to the power of storytelling—and to a mother’s love.
Takeaway: A journey through grief in fable, verse, and vivid illustration, crafted to help readers heal from loss.
Great for fans of: Alexandra Vasiliu’s Healing Words: A Poetry Collection for Broken Hearts, Ellen Everett’s I Saw You As A Flower.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Kirkus Reviews gave this book a Starred Review, saying: "The author’s power to move readers is exemplified by the closing of “Camel and Spider” in which Camel says, “You’re in the moon. You’re in every grain of sand. I can’t see anything without seeing you, Spider.” Cooper’s full-color illustrations add to the book’s unusual melding of genres. The end result is a tenderly philosophical study that offers hope and solace."