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The Seed Collectors, Scarlett Thomas, Soft Skull Press, 2016, 370 pp
Summary from Goodreads: Aunt Oleander is dead. In the Garden of England her extended family gather to remember her, to tell stories and to rekindle old memories. To each of her nearest and dearest Oleander has left a precious seed pod. But along with it comes a family secret that could open the hardest of hearts but also break the closest ties...
I think perhaps Scarlett Thomas is not for everyone but she is definitely for me! A few years ago I read Our Tragic Universe and fell in love.
Five generations of the Gardener family, botanists and spiritual seekers, are harboring some tragedy and many secrets. When Great Aunt Oleander, of the second generation, dies and leaves a rare and precious seed pod to each of her descendants, the family begins to fracture. Not that there was a lack of trouble while Oleander lived, but as we know from many novels, inheritance can be a sticky thing.
For the remaining Gardeners, old tragedy and secrets start coming out. Not one of the marriages in the third and fourth generation is particularly happy. An infidelity produced Fleur, but strangely she has inherited the bulk of Oleander's property and wealth. Fleur loves Charles but he is her half-brother and therefore forbidden. And so on.
Both the glue that holds these family members together and the weakness that keeps them from fitting in with the rest of the world is an old-fashioned quest for enlightenment. The seed pods possibly contain the answer but also might possibly bring about the enlightening by killing anyone who ingests them.
By the time I reached the end I had met wondrously weird characters, made some sense of the convoluted family connections, and was hit with my own enlightenment. The whole novel is a spoof on people, whether they be rich, talented, famous, or just ordinary, who seek love and answers to life.
It made me a little uncomfortable because I have sought those answers with a stubborn tenacity all my life, though at this point am pretty sure that it is all a con, that life is random, so you make the best of it.
Still, what an entertaining way to be made uncomfortable!
(The Seed Collectors is available in hardcover by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)