The Giving Tree Effect

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I always imagined becoming a writer. From an early age, I was captivated by storytellers; their ability to weave a story through my consciousness, connecting my thoughts to theirs. It was pure magic. And I’ll admit, becoming a creative God over the land of words had its appeal.

But I never imagined writing a children’s book about brain injury.

It wasn’t exactly a mainstream topic. It would never make me rich or famous, or make its mark as a bed time favorite, but still I wrote it. There was a driving force pushing me forward, telling me to “keep going.”
Though now I have my doubts.

When I first became a mother, I remember reading the The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to my son. It was a simply illustrated book about a boy and a tree. What could go wrong? Well, if you’ve ever read The Giving Tree you know that the tree loves the boy so much that she gives him everything until she is nothing more than a stump. While I wanted to love the book, at the end, I sat silent.

I didn’t know what to say. It was sad and touching; uncomfortable and real. I honestly hated the little boy for taking so much, and yet the tree and her boy ended up together in the end, both old and dying. In a way, it was a happy ending.

This sort of “Giving Tree” reaction is also occurring about my book, Daddy’s Different: A look at Brain Injury through a Child’s eyes. I knew upon writing it that it wasn’t going to be the lyrical styling’s of Dr. Seuss, leaving readers dancing off in rhyme. It’s about Brain Injury after all. Not just brain injury but the undeniable damage that occurs between a father and son’s relationship as a result. It is both sad and real.

But as a writer, seeing the silence of my readers after they finish that final page is, I’ll admit, insulting.

Does my book suck?

Did I miss the mark?

What reaction was I expecting?

I honestly don’t think I was expecting a reaction. I wrote the book for my sons who were having an impossible time adjusting to their father’s brain injury. But I’m a writer and I created something. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to know what readers thought of my book. It’s like having a baby and people saying nothing when they finally look at him. It makes you wonder.

My husband says it stuns people into silence. It’s an uncomfortable topic that most people don’t understand until they read my book.

He says for a writer, that’s a happy ending.

A “Giving Tree” sort of ending.

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About G. Hayden Forest

I'm a writer living in the Pacific Northwest. I write YA Adult and for children because adults are boring and take themselves way too seriously.
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6 Responses to The Giving Tree Effect

  1. janaegreen says:

    Words can say just about anything, but silence feels it. I think your husband is right, that is a happy ending.

    PS I’d still love for you to sign my copy!

  2. Heather Huston says:

    Nate is wise. I hope you take his words to heart. 🙂

  3. Emma Cater says:

    I don’t know if you’re still active on this but if you are I’d love you to know you’ve helped myself and my 3 year old more than you’ll ever know. This book has given us the tools to talk about feelings around her Daddy after his brain injury. We’re a year down the line and he’s still in hospital but the understanding of the fact he looks the same but is different is what we both needed. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Emma,

      Thank you so much for reaching out. You and your son are exactly the reason I wrote this book. While I wish everyday there wasn’t a need for it, I know the unfortunate truth. We are 10 years out and somedays I still can’t believe that happened to us. Because it does happen to all of you, not just the injured. My sons are well-adjusted and have done what children do best; they have adapted to our new normal. My husband continues to recover. It is not something they are ever fully done healing from. Even so many years later, we see improvements year after year, so please, have hope. It is the only thing that will get you through. Feel free to reach out to me anytime. While my husband’s injury is now 10 years old, I still remember what that first, second and third year were like. You are not alone. Thanks again for reaching out. To know something positive came from our tragedy is the very reason I felt a pull to write that book and see it through to the end. – G

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