The Swing Tree


159 pages
ISBN 0-7780-1036-8
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Martha Wilson

Martha Wilson is Canadian correspondent for the Japan Times (Tokyo) and
a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer.


When Cath, forty-something and divorced, now living with her three
children and her elderly mother, takes stock of her life, she’s not
sure what it amounts to. She needs to heal her difficult relationship
with her mother and to rediscover some common ground with her children.

But first she finds herself caught up in recollections from childhood:
“One day Cath’s standing in the hall staring at the doorknob, an old
brass doorknob with an intricate design. Without warning, Cath sees
herself as a child of four or five, holding onto that doorknob and
resisting being carried upstairs by Phil.”

Andrychuk’s use of the now almost mandatory convention of incest
memories (with attendant questions of false-memory syndrome) is not
entirely successful. By the second half of the book, she has more or
less abandoned the incest theme (Phil wasn’t bad at heart, Cath
concludes) and taken up other threads—Cath’s troubled relationship
with her ex-husband; the sibling rivalry among her children; her
mother’s worsening senility; and her daughter’s repellent boyfriend.
She struggles to love them all and to be fair to herself.

Sometimes the book reads like a first draft. Andrychuk tends to overuse
phrases. For example, “in Toronto” crops up three times in this
paragraph: “Cath later realized she shouldn’t have stayed in
Toronto. If she’d moved back to Kingston right away, she could have
bought a house, even a little place in the country, and she could have
gotten just as good a job as in Toronto. In Toronto she just slipped
further behind.”

Still, there are some nice moments in this novel, and Cath’s
character is at least sometimes convincing.


Andrychuk, Kristin., “The Swing Tree,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,