Somebody bought The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha for Sarah as a present and she asked me to read it so we could talk about it, so I did.

It's a novel about a family tragedy, Southern-state U.S.A. and the death penalty. A little boy is shot dead, a man is arrested for the crime and faces the death penalty. The book chronicles what happens to the family and to the killer during the 19 years or so that passes before the execution takes place.

The book could be accused of having an anti-capital punishment agenda, but I have no problem with that. At least until about half-way through the book, the plot and happenings follow the synopsis with little in the way of surprise, but then there's a twist.

I felt that the twist diminished the message of the book. Without trying to spoil what happens, I felt that you didn't need the core details of the story to be varied or expanded upon or U-turned to push that agenda. In my opinion, it's perfectly possible for someone to construct a story about a killer who faces death, who was unambiguously guilty of the crime they are charged with, and still leave the reader feeling remorse for the killer, and questioning the justice meted out. In fact I thought Rakha was doing a fine job of just that.

However, a twist (or twists) occur, and the facts are called into question, and so you ask even further questions about the practise of killing criminals, in my view redundantly.

It's a good book and worth a read, regardless of what your position is on the issue. It does a great job of describing the unbearable pain of losing a child, but also of the power of forgiveness for the victims.