Jan 21, 2013

The Mimosa Tree

by Vera and Bill Cleaver

This novel is about a poor family who move from North Carolina to Chicago when they fall on hard times. Their fields are blighted, their pigs died and it seems like there's nothing left. So they pack up and move to the big city, hoping for work and better opportunities. Things don't go as planned. Jobs are hard to find, they are woefully ignorant of how things work in their new environment and soon after moving the two grown women in the family disappear. A bunch of little kids and one fourteen-year-old girl are left to fend for themselves with an incapacitated, blind father. At first they try to do things right, to find odd jobs, even apply for government aid- which never materializes. Finally they realize the hopelessness of their situation and follow the lead of a local kid they meet in the back alley, who guides the oldest boy and finally the teenage girl into thievery to survive. One bad thing follows another and finally the older girl realizes that the city is changing them, they are becoming hardened and loosing their morality to the harshness of their new life. She determines that something must change before it is too late.

The mimosa tree in the title never exists. Ashamed to admit to her blind father that the view from their small apartment window only has blank walls and a trash-filled alley, his daughter makes up a landscape with trees and birds. Funny, in the only other book I read that featured a mimosa, the tree was also symbolic. It was The Help. In that case the tree was real, but constantly reminded one of the characters of her failings and created such bitterness that she tried to chop it down (if I remember correctly).

This book is written by the same authors as Where the Lilies Bloom. I like The Mimosa Tree a bit better.

Rating: 3/5 ........  127 pages, 1970


  1. I thought Vera and Bill Cleaver were a brilliant team, and under-recognized and largely forgotten for their efforts. I'd totally be up for revisiting their work.

  2. Yes; I didn't realize they had written much else besides Where the Lilies Bloom but it looks like they had a large number of books published! I'm definitely going to look for more.


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