The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak on a cafe's table with a bowl of soup, a side plate with ginger bread, and a glass of hot lemon and ginger tea

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About the Book

Title: The Island of Missing Trees

Author: Elif Shafak

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, Historical

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication Date: November 2021

Pages: 368, Hardcover


I gave The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak a well-deserved 4.5-star rating. I have seen praises of her books, starting with The Island of Missing Trees, and I am glad I finally got a taste of her writing. 


The Island of Missing Trees tells the story of love, loss and grief, survival, families and communities torn apart by war, immigrants, and everything in between.


Get Your Copy of The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak


My Thoughts About The Island of Missing Trees  by Elif Shafak

Most often, when I have read books where characters are from a different realm, it’s usually in magical realms with either talking animals or magical humans. Some of my favourites include Kafka On The Shore, The House In The Cerulean Sea, and The House of Rust


Until The Island of Missing Trees. Elif gave a tree a touch of humanity and a distinct personality! 


The Fig Tree, having played witness to all the happenings of the characters in the story, its surroundings, and the island’s intercommunal violence, talks about their lives and experiences from its point of view and the war’s effect on other lives besides humans. It sounds weird having such a narration from a tree. However, the Fig Tree’s narration is so beautifully written and vivid that I found myself looking forward to the Fig Tree’s story more than any other. 



Speaking of war, there was so much to learn about the Cyprus War of 1974. 


The book is set in different periods, from the 1970s in Cyprus to the late 2010s in London, when 16-year-old Ada tries to piece together her family’s history for her school project. 


Ada has no connection with her relatives from Cyprus. Worse, it’s been about a year since her mother’s passing and her father is still drowning in sorrow. He only seems to talk and connect with the Fig Tree in their backyard, something Ada cannot wrap her head around. However, her Aunt Meryem has come to visit and fills out the missing puzzles of the story.  


See, Ada’s parents, Defne and Kostas, have tried to shield her from the family’s painful history all her life. The sole existence of her parent’s relationship is like an abomination, considering they are from different communities and religions—Defne, a Turkish Cypriot and Kostas, a Greek Cypriot. Theirs is a story of a secret romance in their teens that leads to immeasurable losses and years of separation after the war breaks out. Decades later, when they finally find their way back to each other, Defne’s family cannot forgive her for choosing Kostas and moving to London with him. Even then, the wounds from the war and the division between the two communities still linger. 


But it’s not all gloomy. Peppered in between are light moments with glimpses of hope and lightheartedness. It’s minuscule anecdotes about trees, birds, and local cuisines. It’s Defne’s and Kostas’s blossoming forbidden young love. The ever-sweet business partners and secret love birds running the local Tavern on the border of the two communities. It’s their kindness in offering young Defne and Kostas a secret meeting place for their clandestine dates. It’s the Fig Tree growing right under the roof of the Tavern, surviving the effects of war and a transplant to a new continent. It’s Defne and Kostas finding their way back to each other. And it’s Ada finally finding some peace, learning about her family’s history and connecting with her father.


Get Your Copy of The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak


As much as I enjoyed The Island of Missing Trees, I could not afford to give it a 5-star rating. Simply because I feel like I was left hanging, especially when it comes to Ada’s storyline. The first few chapters revolve around Ada, her struggle with her mother’s passing, her shyness in class, and the ultimate label as a weirdo. The overwhelm of it all forces Ada to scream her lungs out in class, an event that makes it worse for her as a recording of the episodes finds its way to social media. While there is a mention of supporting hashtags against the mocking ones, this part of the story seems to have been swept under the rug as the book progresses.     


Other than that, I recommend reading The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak in this lifetime! 


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My ★ Rating 4.5

Goodreads ★ Rating 4.17 (as of June 2023)


  • Marlow

    June 18, 2023

    I’ll definitely look for it. ♥️


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