The Chief of Rally Tree
- 268 Pages
- November 6, 2018
- ISBN: 9781510732704
- Imprint: Skyhorse Publishing
Dina’s gone. She left a note, she left her plants, and she left what her husband, Roal, thought was her entire world. Nothing remained but some frozen dinners and the mysterious last line of her final message: I do love you ever Dina.
Professor Roal Bowman, best known in the sleepy college town of Braddock as a fake Zen master who used to pretend to be Native American and never lived up to his potential, by no means saw it coming. How could he have guessed that his wife would run away to help the famous Winter Patent, a man who had literally lived with wolves, on a grand project to embrace the consciousness of trees? He thought Dina had been happy. But the more Roal digs, the more he realizes that he never truly knew or understood his wife, that he never really listened, and that now that Dina has disappeared, he must become something more—something real—if he hopes to get her back. And he’ll have to do it quickly: he’s not the only one who wants to find Dina and Winter.
The Chief of Rally Tree unfolds around Roal’s fumbling, poignant, darkly hilarious awakening to adventure and loss as he watches his life gain focus only once he understands how it might look on the evening news. Jennifer Boyden explores in poetic prose the essential questions about what identity is when it is open for collective definition, the effects of looking to media for structure and meaning, the pull toward eco-consciousness, and what our grand moment of action reveals about who we hope to become, even as we remain open to the surprise of how.
“Jennifer Boyden's The Chief of Rally Tree wrestles the knot between contemporary identity questions and how the heart longs for authentic meaning in a world made of fictions. At the center of the story is a woman who leaves the construct of marriage in favor of remaking herself in eco-real terms, and a man who must decide whether to live his current fiction or become human after all. I devoured this book and dreamt of a vegetal realm where being and love might yet matter.”
—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan
“Jennifer Boyden straddles satire and deft realism to ask good questions: How well do we know ourselves? How well do we know those closest to us? To what degree have we been sleep-walking through our lives? What narratives most guide us? Which should? What have we been missing? The Chief of Rally Tree honors a deep tuning-in to subtle frequencies unheard or ignored at the expense of our best capabilities.”
—Scott Elliott, author of Temple Grove
“Jennifer Boyden is a spectacular writer, with a wild imagination, sumptuous sentences, and a savage wit. You will laugh, wince, and applaud as you read this book about undeserved redemption, which is grace.”
—Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Piano Tide
"In precise, gorgeous prose, Boyden explores the shifting lines between civilization and the natural world. Her fallible and endearing characters reveal our humanity in all of its strangeness, culpability, and power. A striking novel of humor and deep empathy.”
—Megan Kruse, author of Call Me Home
“The Chief of Rally Tree is an allegory for our time, a book that is by turns funny, sharp, philosophical, and always deeply humane. The natural world may be dying, the patriarchy unyielding, and consumer culture as mindless as ever, but the forest calls from Boyden’s book, and we can listen.”
—Daegan Miller, Author of This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent
“The Chief of Rally Tree is THE book for this moment in our lives, in our history. In it we witness lives earned and lives stumbled into. A woman leaves the world of humans—husband, neighbors, friends—to live among and help distressed trees. They breathe through her. Narrated in sumptuous prose, the story spins out—metaphorically zany, emotionally resonant, and deeply compelling. The characters are wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful, and through them we open ourselves to wonder.”
—Nance Van Winckel, author of Our Foreigner
“Inventive, smart, and often hilariously funny, The Chief of Rally Tree delivers a social critique both searing and sly.” —Ann Pancake, Whiting Award winner, in her Siskiyou Prize citation