*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Far from the Tree, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Thus far in the history of this site, there have been no YA books featured. This isn’t because I haven’t read any young adult fiction, but mainly because most book clubs lean towards adult fiction.
Some YA books just aren’t what many book clubs are going to choose to read and that’s okay, but before you click away, read a little more about why I chose this book.
Far from the Tree is a young adult book that I think you will love, especially if you have teenagers at home or you have been adopted or have adopted a child.
This brilliant novel addresses many heavy topics with grace and care including teen pregnancy, alcoholism, adoption, foster care, divorce, discrimination, and more. And it does it while still maintaining the complex mix of innocence and wisdom through which teenagers process the world.
Beyond my personal vote of confidence, Far from the Tree won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, so you can trust that it’s complex and well-written enough for book clubs.
The novel is told by three biological teenage siblings who have led different lives. When Grace, the middle child gives her baby up for adoption, she seeks out her two siblings. After they meet for the first time, the story follows them as they each struggle to relearn what defines a family.
Each sibling presents a different viewpoint on adoption and belonging. Together they balance one another out and create a beautiful story about the nuances of what it means to be family.
If your book club is looking for something different to read that will open your eyes to a new perspective, Far from the Tree should be on your list. Plus it’s an easy and light read that will leave you smiling, reminiscing your own teenage hardships, and wanting to extend a helpful hand or heart to those teenagers in your life.
On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for Far from the Tree, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Looking for your next great read? Check out these similar books…
Here’s a brief summary of Far from the Tree:
When teenage Grace gives up her baby for adoption, the complex feelings she’s left with drive her to reach out to her two biological siblings. An only adopted child, Grace soon meets Maya, her loud-mouthed younger biological sister who has grown up the only sassy brunette in a family of optimistic red heads. Together, they find Joaquin, their stoic older brother, who has spent the last 17 years in the foster system.
When Grace broaches the subject of trying to find their biological mother, Maya and Joaquin have mixed feelings. Trouble is stirring in Maya’s adopted family and Joaquin is struggling to accept his own past and mistakes, but, after giving up her own child, Grace longs to find answers to new, unexpected questions in her heart.
Together they embark on a journey to explore the meaning of family in all its shapes and forms.
For the Far from the Tree recipe:
Most of the food mentioned in the book is typical teenage fare including burgers, fries, and frozen yogurt. (Not saying I don’t enjoy those, too!) So, if your book club is reading Far from the Tree, use this opportunity to pick up some take out and have a fun buffet-style party of your favorite guilty-pleasure foods.
I loved how Grace called her baby Peach. It was a sweet connection between her and her little girl and I decided to create a recipe for Peaches and Cream Cookies in honor of that.
If you are looking for other food ideas from Far from the Tree, here are a few:
- Anything peach for Grace’s baby
- Burgers and fries with mayonnaise – the first time Joaquin, Grace and Maya meet
- Cobb salad with lemonade and a veggie burger with fries and coke – Joaquin’s meetings with his therapist at the restaurant
- Frozen yogurt then sandwiches – Grace’s dates with Rafe at the mall
- Pita, tzatziki, and steak and chicken kebabs – Lauren and Maya go to eat before their mother’s accident
- Barbecue and cake – Joaquin’s adoption party
It was a lot of fun creating some peaches and cream cookies for the novel. I decided to go with a cookie because they are also a quintessential teenage snack.
For the recipe, I used canned peaches, but, if you are in the middle of peach season, I think fresh peaches would be even better!
If you are using fresh peaches, simply substitute the heavy syrup in the icing with milk and add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
If you are looking for food suggestions for Far from the Tree, I think your book club will be happy to try Peaches and Cream Cookies!
Peaches and Cream Cookies
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 1/4 cup peaches diced (use canned or fresh, see note)
- 1 ½ tbsp flour
- 2 – 2 ½ tbsp peach syrup from canned peaches, see note
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- Remove the canned peaches from the can, reserving the syrup for later. Dab the peaches as dry as possible with a paper towel. Be careful not to smash the peaches, but get them as dry as possible.
- Dice into small pieces. You want them about as small as the chocolate chips.
- Next, sprinkle 1 ½ tbsp flour over the peaches and gently toss.
- Spread the chopped peaches on a lined baking sheet and flash freeze for 1 hour. This will prevent them from mashing completely when mixed in the batter.
- Once the peaches are ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and dark and granulated sugars on medium-high. The mixture will become slightly fluffy after a few minutes.
- Add in the egg and vanilla and continue beating at medium-high until well incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is mixed well.
- In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients—flour, cornstarch, soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry mix to your mixer while running it on low speed until it is all added and incorporated.
- Continuing on the lowest speed, add the white chocolate chips and chopped frozen peaches. Run for just 5-10 seconds until mixed in. You don’t want to break the peaches down too much.
- Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Place on a greased or lined baking sheet. REFRIDGERATE the remaining dough until needed for the next batch.
- Bake for 10 – 11 minutes until bottoms are browning slightly. Cookies will be slightly puffy and may look a little underdone.
- Remove and cool for at least 20 minutes before icing.
- Icing is optional, but delicious: Whisk together the peach liquid and the confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl. Allow to rest for 5 minutes to thicken before drizzling onto the cookies in a zig-zag motion.
- Let cookies set for 10-15 minutes and enjoy!
* Because peach season is so short, canned peaches allows you to bake this dish anytime. However, you can make this with fresh chopped peaches if you have them! You can substitute 2 tbsp of milk and 1/2 tsp of vanilla for the peach syrup in the icing if using fresh peaches.
Far from the Tree Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- Grace carries a child knowing that she can’t and won’t keep the baby because she is only sixteen. Still, after Peach is born, Grace feels like a piece of her heart is taken away. Discuss the complexities of Grace’s situation and imagine the difficulty of experiencing the joys and pains of motherhood at such a young age.
- Grieving from her separation from Peach, Grace decides she wants to know more about her own birth mother and learns she has two siblings, Maya and Joaquin. How did Grace’s situation make her more empathetic to her birth mother in ways her siblings couldn’t appreciate?
- Joaquin has lived his entire life in and out of foster homes and was even adopted and then sent back to foster care. Did you know that was possible? Discuss some of the hardest things Joaquin lived through and how this changed your perspective on children in foster care.
- Maya is the only sibling who also has an adopted sibling (Lauren). How did Maya’s relationship with Lauren differ from her relationship with Grace and Joaquin? In what ways were they similar?
- Grace is bullied at school because of her pregnancy, but, despite his part in it, Max is neither shunned nor bullied. How did this make you feel? Have you seen the same situation play out in situations close to you? How could you reach out to someone like Grace who is hurting?
- Grace, Maya, and Joaquin all struggle with feeling like they don’t belong in their families. Discuss how their feelings about this are all different and how they are similar. We all struggle with feeling like we don’t belong in our families, but how does adoption add a layer to this? Do you think the feelings they felt were valid or based on fear, etc.?
- Maya’s parents are facing a divorce during the novel and her mother deals with her pain by drinking alcohol. Maya struggles to understand and cope with what is happening at home and pushes away those she cares about most. Joaquin, similarly, struggles with his past rejections and reactions and pushes Mark and Linda away. Discuss how Maya and Joaquin finally move past their hurt and begin to accept the help they need to work through their situations. Why is it important to allow people who want to help us in? Why is this difficult?
- What did you think would happen when Grace, Maya, and Joaquin finally agree to find their birth mother? Did the visit surprise you? Were you sad or happy with what they found?
- In the end, all three characters move toward resolutions in their lives. Do you think that they would have been able to heal without each other? How did each sibling help with the other’s healing?
- What other books on adoption or foster care have you read? How did this one compare? If you have experience with adoption or foster care personally and feel open to it, share how this book rang true or false with your own experiences.
Have you read Far from the Tree? What did you think? Did you enjoy this YA book? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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