The Cure to Aging
The Roots of the Olive Tree, by Courtney Miller Santo. William Morrow, 306 pp.
Anna Davison Keller is the second-oldest person alive. She is 112 years old, and she prays each day that God would extend her life, at least until that “jo-fired man in China who was keeping her from the title” would die, allowing her the coveted title.
She felt she was owed this distinction, due to the particular care she’d taken with the vessel God had given her.
Anna lives in Hill House, on an olive orchard, with her daughter, Bets, and her granddaughter, Callie. Anna’s great-granddaughter, Deb, is in prison for shooting her husband, and her great-great-granddaughter, Erin, has just shown up to the house after a stint in Italy, pregnant.
Each of the women in the Keller family holds their share of secrets, but the one they are the most hesitant to divulge, largely because they don’t know it, is the secret to their aging.
Dr. Amrit Hashmi, a geneticist who is interested in the Keller women’s ability to age, believes that there is a specific reason why the Keller women live as long as they do. He interviews each of them individually, and draws their blood to study in his lab.
At the end of each olive harvest, Anna walks through the orchard and strips the trees of their remaining fruit. These final olives she hand-presses into her own oil, which she includes in her tea and rubs on her hands.
The orchard was begun by her father when her family immigrated from Australia. Those particular trees are special, and are untouched by the workers until harvest.
Whether they laugh, cry, fight, or refuse to speak to each other, these women are connected by a force much more powerful than themselves. They are a family, whether
they like it or not, and that small threads hold them together through every circumstance.
The Roots of the Olive Tree is beautiful, from the description of Hill house to the feisty nature of the family’s matriarch. The women have their vices and their virtues, and they must work together as a family to continue the Keller family, and its legacy, into the next generation.