Lisa Tuttle, The Silver Bough (Bantam, 2006)

What would happen if the Island of Avalon, having accidentally crashed into Scotland in the 17th century, was cut off from the mainland again? Would the fey come out of hiding? Would wishes come true? Would a whole community's luck change? Most of all, would these consequences be positive or negative? These are some of the questions that The Silver Bough sets out to answer, through the intertwined stories of three American women in Scotland.

Kathleen came to Appleton after her divorce in search of a job and a more affordable place to live than London. Nell needed an orchard in which to bury her grief and her conviction that she was accursed. Ashley was looking for an explanation of the central mystery in her grandmother's life. They all found something else.

There are men involved in their stories, of course. Aren't there always? We meet half-fey Ronan; Graeme "from away," who knows more about Appleton than most people who were born there; Mario, who was exiled for a forbidden love affair; Dave the musician and Sam, who holds Nell's heart in his dead hands. We learn quite a lot about these men, but this is still the women's story.

Tuttle keeps the three stories fairly straight in The Silver Bough, so it's easy to figure out whose story you're in when you come back to the book after laying it aside. The excerpts from "the restricted-access shelves in Appleton Public Library" that end many chapters are interesting, and she channels their authors' voices neatly.

The steepest hurdle I had to get over in reading The Silver Bough was the impossible concept of palm trees growing in Argyllshire. Once I found out from my Scottish podiatrist that there really are palm trees on the Gulf Stream side of Scotland, it was much easier to accept kelpies, mermaids, magic apples, immortal great-grannies and other fey doings. Those I've believed in most of my life anyway, whereas Scottish palm trees are another matter entirely.

And how does Lisa Tuttle answer the questions she has set for herself? Most of the answers seem positive enough, but the first and last ones are much more ambiguous. That's realistic, though -- life tends to be ambiguous even when the fey aren't involved.

Besides The Silver Bough, Lisa Tuttle has written widely for adults and children alike, non-fiction as well as fiction. Green Man has already reviewed The Mysteries.

[Faith J. Cormier]