Book Review: Tangled Roots by Sue Guiney

tangled-roots001I should have received Tangled Roots from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers programme but as it never arrived the author, Sue Guiney kindly sent me a copy. It’s written from two perspectives – John, a professor of Theoretical Physics and his mother, Grace, moving backwards and forwards in time and set in Boston, London and Moscow and as the title indicates is about how their lives intertwine and interact.

It took me several chapters before I really became interested in Tangled Roots. I was a bit lost in the description of the characters’ thoughts and inner soul searching. However, as I read on the characters began to come to life, particularly Grace.  Grace is looking back over her life, how her marriage and pregnancy brought her career to a halt, how she coped with her husband’s infidelity and the death of her second child, her sister’s cancer and how she struggled with depression. Overall, Grace is the more convincing character.

John is unhappy, seemingly going through a mid-life crisis. He hasn’t got over his mother’s death, has a failed marriage, succombs to an affair with a student, and it looks as though his and his Russian colleague’s research will be pipped at the post by the “South American team”. I’m hazy about the actual details of the research. It all seemed a bit vague and something to do with holography, but that maybe because I don’t know much about science and certainly nothing about theoretical physics. I wasn’t really convinced about this part of the book. I wanted to get back to find out more about Grace.

Tangled Roots is about family relationships and relationships between friends and colleagues. It’s about communication, understanding or lack of it, and about dealing with life’s catastrophes. It’s also about illness and depression. There is quite a lot of scientific information interspersed, some of which I found enlightening and there is a glossary of terms at the end of the book to help the scientifiically challenged like me. Entropy, which is the “measurement of the amount of disorder in a physical system”, serves as a simile with the characters’ lives as events spiral rapidly into disorder and chaos.