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Two Trees Make a Forest

Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature, 2020

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349011042

Price: £10.99

ON SALE: 27th August 2020

Genre: Lifestyle, Sport & Leisure / Travel & Holiday / Travel Writing

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I have learned many words for ‘island’: isle, atoll, eyot, islet, or skerry. They exist in archipelagos or alone, and always, by definition, I have understood them by their relation to water. But the Chinese word for island knows nothing of water. For a civilisation grown inland from the sea, the vastness of mountains was a better analogue: (dao, ‘island’) built from the relationship between earth and sky.

Between tectonic plates and conflicting cultures, Taiwan is an island of extremes: high mountains, exposed flatlands, thick forests. After unearthing a hidden memoir of her grandfather’s life, written on the cusp of his total memory loss, Jessica J Lee hunts his story, in parallel with exploring Taiwan, hoping to understand the quakes that brought her family from China, to Taiwan and Canada, and the ways in which our human stories are interlaced with geographical forces. Part-nature writing, part-biography, Two Trees Make a Forest traces the natural and human stories that shaped an island and a family.


A finely faceted meditation on memory, love, landscape - and finding a home in language. Its short, shining sections tilt yearningly towards one another; in form as well as content, this is a beautiful book about the distance between people and between places, and the means of their bridging
Robert Macfarlane
A beautiful, fully-realised tribute to a family and a brave, diligent search for understanding in the mist
Amy Liptrot
[A] luminescent exploration of family and landscape in Taiwan . . . The book details Jessica J. Lee's family's displacement from China, their migration to Taiwan after the Second World War and then to Canada in the 1970s, alongside Taiwan's turbulent history and a portrayal of the mountainous, cloud-forested island itself . . . Lee's description of her own journey through the Taiwanese landscape [...] combines a botanist's precision with a poet's eye and ear . . . In Two Trees Make a Forest, Lee has created a powerful, beautifully written account of the connections between people and the places they call home
Times Literary Supplement
Both clear-eyed and tender hearted, Two Trees Make a Forest is a profound and gorgeously written meditation on the natural and familial environments that shape us. Jessica J Lee is a poetic talent keenly attentive to the mysterious and sublime
Sharlene Teo
A subtle, powerful exploration of the relationship between people and place, and a luminous evocation of an extraordinary landscape
Melissa Harrison
Two Trees Make a Forest takes a twisting path through mountain passes, over tree roots, by spoon billed birds and into a family's past. In this thoughtful memoir, Lee asks the reader to wonder, what makes a homeland? Is it language, family, landscape? I was left with a full heart and a longing to learn the name of each tree that lines my own past
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Melissa Harrison, Observer