Theoni Bell’s new novel, The Woman in the Trees, is an enjoyable work of historical fiction that also educates readers about Belgian immigrants to the United States and the apparition of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin.
In the dramatic first scene, Slaine Lafont and here family are trying to escape a massive fire that is racing toward their home in 1871. The story then goes back in time to 1859. Adele Brise arrives at Slaine’s home and offers to teach her and her siblings the catechism, but Slaine’s mother refuses to allow it.
Despite her mother’s hard heart, Slaine ultimately is able to learn the faith from Adele and hears the story of how Mary appeared to Adele and gave her the mission of teaching the catechism to the local settlers. Slaine is drawn to the chapel erected at the site of the apparition, but once again her mother stands in her way.
The Woman in the Trees is a story of the apparition, but also the story of a community and family dynamics. The pain and trials of these immigrants is tangible. Adele’s struggles to share the Good News are also realistically portrayed. This is a wonderful story for a family read aloud or for older children, teens, or adults to read on their own. It is appropriate for ages 10 and up.