Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts

Category: Book
By (author): Lee, Jessica J.
  NATURE / Plants / Trees
Awards: Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize (2020) Short-listed
Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature (2020) Short-listed
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Published: July 2020
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 304
Size: 8.23in x 5.67in x 0.77in
Our Price:
$ 24.95
In stock

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*.from the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize for Emerging Writers

"Two Trees Make a Forest is a finely faceted meditation on memory, love, landscape--and finding a home in language. Its short, shining sections tilt yearningly toward 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, author of Underland

A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads Jessica J. Lee to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan. There, she seeks his story while growing closer to the land he knew.
Lee hikes mountains home to Formosan flamecrests, birds found nowhere else on earth, and swims in a lake of drowned cedars. She bikes flatlands where spoonbills alight by fish farms, and learns about a tree whose fruit can float in the ocean for years, awaiting landfall. Throughout, Lee unearths surprising parallels between the natural and human stories that have shaped her family and their beloved island. Joyously attentive to the natural world, Lee also turns a critical gaze upon colonialist explorers who mapped the land and named plants, relying on and often effacing the labor and knowledge of local communities.

Two Trees Make a Forest is a genre-shattering book encompassing history, travel, nature, and memoir, an extraordinary narrative showing how geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories.
Review Quote*Finalist for the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize
Shorlisted for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature
One of The Guardian's Best Books of the Year
One of CBC's "24 Canadian books to read during Women's History Month"

Praise for Two Trees Make a Forest:

"Two Trees Make a Forest is a finely faceted meditation on memory, love, landscape-and finding a home in language. Its short, shining sections tilt yearningly toward 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, author of Underland

"Like a forest itself, Jessica J. Lee's book is mesmerizing on the scale of both the intimate and the vast. With gorgeous language that sings in your head like the songs of the birds in the trees, she deftly stitches together nature and travel writing with history and memoir. This book is a triumph. It left me longing to pack my boots and set off for the dew-covered mountains of Taiwan."
-Juli Berwald, author of Spineless

"Jessica J. Lee is a writer of rare and exhilarating grace."
-Kate Harris, award-winning author of Lands of Lost Borders

"Two Trees Make a Forest is a stunning book. It is full of family, longing, ghosts, and landscapes, all of which, in Lee's deft and beautiful telling, invoke the complications of belonging to worlds both human and natural. Lee's writing is alive equally to the details of forests and to the daily lives of her parents and grandparents. The narrative emerges out of Taiwan's mists layer by layer, reminding us how place, experience, memory, and the bones of the earth remake one over time. A powerful meditation on the forces that shape our lives, from bedrock to the language we use to describe it."
-Bathsheba Demuth, author of Floating Coast

"Two Trees Make a Forest 
is glorious and extraordinary-in its language, in its setting, in its story. Jessica J. Lee has a brilliant eye for nature, an ear for languages, and a sensitivity to the poetry of the human heart. In these pages, she performs a subtle miracle: she retrieves lost strands of family, landscape, and history and weaves them together to create a surprising and soulful whole."
-Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus, finalist for the National Book Award

"I want to go to Taiwan to experience the woodlands, the wetlands, the highlands, the lowlands, and the creatures in, above, and underneath, as Jessica J. Lee does with all her senses, including that sense too many of us ignore-the inner self. Then again, she has taken me there with this splendid book."
-Jack E. Davis, author of The Gulf, winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize

"A subtle, powerful exploration of the relationship between people and place, and a luminous evocation of an extraordinary landscape."
-Melissa Harrison, author of All Among the Barley
"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, author of Starling Days and Harmless Like You
"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, author of Ponti

"A beautiful, fully realized tribute to a family, and a brave, diligent search for understanding in the mist."
―Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun

"[An] elegiac book, which smoothly incorporates historical and travel threads . . . A beautiful and personal view of an island―and an author―shaped by environment and history."
-Kirkus Reviews

". . . a fascinating and gentle read. . . . [Two Trees Make a Forest] is both an introduction to Taiwan, its people and its topography, and a highly personal, and honest, account of one family. It is beautifully written, full of metaphor and short passages of illuminating description."
-Geographical (UK)

"Jessica J. Lee asks the reader to consider slippery definitions of family in her complicated but thoughtful memoir, Two Trees Make a Forest. . . . [An] elegance of language is ever present in the work; poetic and emotive, unfurling to reveal passages about her family, her pain, and her exploration of Taiwan's myriad habitats, which arise from its delicate status as an island positioned between two tectonic plates."
-The Los Angeles Review of Books

"Lee uncovers surprising parallels between nature and human stories that shaped her family and their beloved island . . . she also turns a critical eye onto colonialist explorers who . . . relied on and often erased the labour and knowledge of local communities."
-CBC Books

"[A] genre-breaking memoir. . ."
-The Straight

"A poignant and beautifully written account of family, time, and place."
-Library Journal

"[A] luminescent exploration of family and landscape in Taiwan . . . a powerful, beautifully written account of the connections between people and the places they call home."
-The Times Literary Supplement
Biographical NoteJESSICA J. LEE has been awarded the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award. Her first book, Turning, which chronicles her journey swimming 52 lakes in a single year, was longlisted for the Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors. She has a doctorate in environmental history and aesthetics. Originally from London, Ontario, the author now lives in Berlin.