The Sandalwood Tree

Sometimes a book pulls me into a place I’ve never been and makes me reluctant to leave and come home. The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark is such a book. It is set in 1947 India on the cusp of change as British Raj comes to an end with a backstory from 1857 that emerges as Evie discovers secret love letters behind a loose brick in their rented house. She becomes obsessed with finding “the rest of the story.” I joined her obsession and picked up on the frequent repetition of Adela Winfield’s quotation at the beginning of the book, “Death steals everything but our stories.”

Death came early and dramatically for those who lived in the house in 1857, but Evie ferrets out their story discovering new tidbits in the house, the community, and in the hollow of the sandalwood tree. Along the way, her own story unfolds with repeated near misses as she and her husband seem unable to hold onto their fragile marriage.

Carefully researched details of time and place for both stories had me feeling I was in India and wanting to take Evie and Martin in hand and say, “Pay attention! He/she is reaching out to you.” But I was able to join Evie in mentally compartmentalizing their marriage problems as we followed clues to find the story of Adele Winfield who had lived in the house so long ago.

Besides the quote that formed the theme of the story, I had two other favorites.
•    “I didn’t know then that love is not only something you feel, it’s something you do.”
•    “It’s not that the past doesn’t matter, it’s that the future matters more, and the present matters most of all.”

The Sandalwood Tree was in the first gift set sent to my Kindle from librarian daughter Anna who knows a good book when she reads one. I wonder where she got that?