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Under the Birch Tree: A Memoir of Discovering Connections and Finding Home

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A birch tree grows tall and arabesque in the front yard of Nancy Chadwick’s childhood home. Over time the tree becomes her buddy and first learned connection, synonymous with home―and one spring morning, she makes a discovery under its boughs that foreshadows the many disconnections within her family, relationships, jobs, and home that are to come. Through the chapters in A birch tree grows tall and arabesque in the front yard of Nancy Chadwick’s childhood home. Over time the tree becomes her buddy and first learned connection, synonymous with home―and one spring morning, she makes a discovery under its boughs that foreshadows the many disconnections within her family, relationships, jobs, and home that are to come. Through the chapters in her life, Chadwick’s search for home carries her through with unflinching honesty, but in the end, it is a story of survival and triumph over adversity.


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A birch tree grows tall and arabesque in the front yard of Nancy Chadwick’s childhood home. Over time the tree becomes her buddy and first learned connection, synonymous with home―and one spring morning, she makes a discovery under its boughs that foreshadows the many disconnections within her family, relationships, jobs, and home that are to come. Through the chapters in A birch tree grows tall and arabesque in the front yard of Nancy Chadwick’s childhood home. Over time the tree becomes her buddy and first learned connection, synonymous with home―and one spring morning, she makes a discovery under its boughs that foreshadows the many disconnections within her family, relationships, jobs, and home that are to come. Through the chapters in her life, Chadwick’s search for home carries her through with unflinching honesty, but in the end, it is a story of survival and triumph over adversity.

30 review for Under the Birch Tree: A Memoir of Discovering Connections and Finding Home

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dawnny

    Wonderful Debut A memoir of Chadwick's life,thoughts and feelings as a child. She always found herself more connected to things than people. A father who left them. A mother who charts her way after the fact. Chadwick was always searching for her place as a child. The meaning of life.It was her faith that kept her driven. A deep look into a family and a young girl growing up. Her joys and her heart break. An awkward girl that I could easily see myself in. A moving,deeply rooted debut. Thank you Boo Wonderful Debut A memoir of Chadwick's life,thoughts and feelings as a child. She always found herself more connected to things than people. A father who left them. A mother who charts her way after the fact. Chadwick was always searching for her place as a child. The meaning of life.It was her faith that kept her driven. A deep look into a family and a young girl growing up. Her joys and her heart break. An awkward girl that I could easily see myself in. A moving,deeply rooted debut. Thank you Book Sharks Dawn BookGypsy Novels N Latte Book Blog

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Under the Birch Tree by Nancy Chadwick This is beautiful, calm writing about overcoming adversity in Nancy Chadwick's memoir. Her favorite trees are birch trees. She calls them Birch Buddies whenever she sees them in her travels. She starts out by finding solace under the only Birch tree in her childhood home among the other trees in her yard. She discovers a hole under her Birch tree filled with a litter of baby bunnies. Her older brother Tim removes the bunnies and displaces them. She lives wit Under the Birch Tree by Nancy Chadwick This is beautiful, calm writing about overcoming adversity in Nancy Chadwick's memoir. Her favorite trees are birch trees. She calls them Birch Buddies whenever she sees them in her travels. She starts out by finding solace under the only Birch tree in her childhood home among the other trees in her yard. She discovers a hole under her Birch tree filled with a litter of baby bunnies. Her older brother Tim removes the bunnies and displaces them. She lives with a disconnected family. Her brother, mother and father share a home but don't have any closeness. Her father takes her with him every Saturday morning to the barbers, but they don't have a meaningful relationship. Her mother and father sleep in twin beds and he is always away on business trips. It comes as no surprise when her father announces that he is divorcing her mother. She recounts her solitude in growing up with an anxious mother. When Nancy goes off to college she is looking to fit in. We accompany her on many jobs in advertising. She gets let go at one job after another, no matter how hard she works. Nancy Chadwick writes lovely descriptive prose about her inner and outer landscapes. We can see the bright sunshine on a crystalline blue Lake Michigan. We can feel the four seasons on her solitary walks. I am glad I read this memoir of coming of age in the early 1960's. Highly Recommended. Thank you to Net Galley, Nancy Chadwick

  3. 4 out of 5

    Story Circle Book Reviews

    Writers sometimes claim to revel in the solitude of their youths, getting lost in nature, hobbies, writing, or books. Others, such as Nancy Chadwick, languish in the silences, longing to connect in some way with the nearness of others even as the confusion of how to do this prevents it time after time. Chadwick, the author of Under of the Birch Tree, felt agonized growing up in a family of four who rarely spoke to one another. She became connected to things around her rather than people. As she m Writers sometimes claim to revel in the solitude of their youths, getting lost in nature, hobbies, writing, or books. Others, such as Nancy Chadwick, languish in the silences, longing to connect in some way with the nearness of others even as the confusion of how to do this prevents it time after time. Chadwick, the author of Under of the Birch Tree, felt agonized growing up in a family of four who rarely spoke to one another. She became connected to things around her rather than people. As she matured, she began to understand the quiet role of her father as a dissatisfied husband who eventually left the family and remarried. His absence created a ripple: the house would be sold, forcing her mother to accept the challenges of becoming a single, independent woman—which she eventually did, at a time when both Nancy and her brother Tim were to strike out on their own. Relationships confound and confuse a young professional Nancy. "Why doesn't anyone want to be with me? I'm a nice person, I'm smart, I have a job, and I'm self-sufficient." As she struggles to make sense of those around her, Chadwick clings to the steady visions of birch trees that seem to be found wherever she is and to her belief that "God will not let anything bad happen to me." Indeed, her faith protects her as she comes to terms with a blossoming self-worth, and the meaning of life as it unfolds for her. Chadwick has succeeded in creating a touching memoir worth reading for anyone, especially anyone who struggles with job security and finding a sense of belonging. Her incredible faith and perseverance are testaments to the strength she garners throughout the many trials she encounters in her career. "Tears shed on the outside matched some on the inside, but they always dried up and I moved on." A reader should expect a memoir to make full use of personal pronouns, and this one is no different. Arranged chronologically to cover a critical segment of her life, Under the Birches ends with a beautiful quote from Hermann Hesse that I wish could have been scattered throughout: "For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone..." It is in standing alone for so long that Nancy Chadwich finally looks around and discovers her tribe. by Shawn LaTorre for Story Circle Book Reviews reviewing books by, for, and about women

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Buchanan

    UNDER THE BIRCH TREE is a thoughtful recount of a sojourn from emotionally humble beginnings and subsequent yearning for outside validation, to liberation—shedding of emotional baggage. Chadwick finds her way, her place, and ultimately her home, with serendipitous and uplifting encounters with birch trees along the way. I'm glad I read this book, you will be too. UNDER THE BIRCH TREE is a thoughtful recount of a sojourn from emotionally humble beginnings and subsequent yearning for outside validation, to liberation—shedding of emotional baggage. Chadwick finds her way, her place, and ultimately her home, with serendipitous and uplifting encounters with birch trees along the way. I'm glad I read this book, you will be too.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Notbohm

    Here is an endearing memoir that rises above the general dysfunctional-family and rocky-coming-of-age genre. When her parents unexpectedly divorce, the author loses her childhood touchstone, a birch tree that stood in the yard of the home that had to be sold. She seeks similar solidarity and connection in the people who populate the environments of the various homes she occupies from there on, beginning with her mother’s apartment, where mother-and-daughter roles seems to reverse as her mother na Here is an endearing memoir that rises above the general dysfunctional-family and rocky-coming-of-age genre. When her parents unexpectedly divorce, the author loses her childhood touchstone, a birch tree that stood in the yard of the home that had to be sold. She seeks similar solidarity and connection in the people who populate the environments of the various homes she occupies from there on, beginning with her mother’s apartment, where mother-and-daughter roles seems to reverse as her mother navigates her unanticipated and unwelcome new life as a working woman. From there, Chadwick moves on to various college living situations at Marquette University, on into the world of an entry-level worker in the advertising industry, then abandoning its disappointments to take a job in banking and make an astonishing cross-country move with a one-way ticket to a city she’d never laid eyes on. Chadwick’s continual search for connection with both people and places gently emphasizes the universality of this need, even for those reluctant to admit it. Many readers will find connections to Chadwick herself, e.g., her description of being made to wear clothes distinctly different from what her classmates were typically wearing brought back piercing similar memories of my own. Her string of short-lived relationships with men, some over before they barely started, brings her perilously close to the what’s-wrong-with-me? territory many will relate to. Chadwick’s steadfast and oft-stated faith that “God won’t let anything bad happen to me” won’t resonate with everyone, but how that faith translates into pity-free self-reliance, resourcefulness, and resilience when bad things actually do happen to her is a message worth hearing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Grant

    Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Nancy Chadwick forms an unlikely bond with the family’s Birch tree she calls her birch buddy, and where it, as she recalls, “became a metaphor for living, a guiding symbol for finding home.” In her debut memoir, Nancy uncovers a family disconnected through lack of communication, solidarity and harmony. It’s a story of true resilience in overcoming the effect her parent’s divorce has on the family unit. Thrown into a battle of self-discovery both personally an Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Nancy Chadwick forms an unlikely bond with the family’s Birch tree she calls her birch buddy, and where it, as she recalls, “became a metaphor for living, a guiding symbol for finding home.” In her debut memoir, Nancy uncovers a family disconnected through lack of communication, solidarity and harmony. It’s a story of true resilience in overcoming the effect her parent’s divorce has on the family unit. Thrown into a battle of self-discovery both personally and professionally, she must learn that to move on in pursuit of her own happiness, new beginnings and in search of new connections in finding home, she must first let go of the obstacles blocking her way. This is a book that shows how faith can help conquer life’s hardships, forging a way through life‘s challenges and where reflection and discovery provides inner-strength and belief in one’s own abilities to succeed and to never surrender. I was completely absorbed whilst reading Under the Birch Tree, showing how important connections are in establishing a solid grounding in life. This is a must read for anyone who has ever questioned their place in life.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marian Beaman

    Nancy Chadwick drew me into her world in Under the Birch Tree, a world that ran parallel to the lives of upper-middle class girls I sat beside in high school. I also understood her description of the world of nature that called up memories of oaks and maples in my own childhood. Under the Birch Tree is a memoir of seeking connection, growing up with an arid family life where she felt disconnected from her distant Dad, needy mother and older brother Tim in their home in suburban Chicago. Solitude Nancy Chadwick drew me into her world in Under the Birch Tree, a world that ran parallel to the lives of upper-middle class girls I sat beside in high school. I also understood her description of the world of nature that called up memories of oaks and maples in my own childhood. Under the Birch Tree is a memoir of seeking connection, growing up with an arid family life where she felt disconnected from her distant Dad, needy mother and older brother Tim in their home in suburban Chicago. Solitude and silence dominated her pre-college years in this home, but she found solace in bunnies and squirrels that flirted around the roots of the birch tree, “its delicate leaves, hanging like slender earrings from twiggy branches, boasted shiny green in summer’s health and shriveled brown in fall’s hibernation.” Her mother’s gift for her 15th birthday, a pink hardcover journal became her “new best friend” with whom she could share secrets. This, together with her beloved plants would carry her into college life where she discovered friendships with young women and connected to young men who persisted in treating her like a sister, much to her chagrin. Evidence of her Catholic upbringing underscores a theme in the book: the repetition throughout that “God wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me,” though she faces challenges with finding and keeping employment. She admits to getting fired (more than once) on her journey in the corporate world to find her niche in life – and her identity. Chadwick is skilled with description and mentions after yet another move: “upon the lift of a hinged cover, my home and all its contents would be released to settle in a new place.” Readers who have experienced frequent moves or lack of connection in life will identify with Chadwick’s quandary: finding true relationships while discovering one’s authentic self. Nancy Chadwick’s memoir, subtitled “A Memoir of Finding Connections and Discovering Home” successfully charts the quest for true transformation, the test of any good coming of age book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mamta Madhavan

    Under the Birch Tree by Nancy Chadwick is an insightful and thought-provoking memoir that speaks about the insecurities of life, the connections and disconnections in relationships and jobs, and the profundities and inner meanings of everybody’s lives. She begins the book with her childhood days and playing in the back yard, and how she forms a connection with the birch tree that grows in the front yard of her childhood home. Her birch buddy is synonymous with home and the author aesthetically l Under the Birch Tree by Nancy Chadwick is an insightful and thought-provoking memoir that speaks about the insecurities of life, the connections and disconnections in relationships and jobs, and the profundities and inner meanings of everybody’s lives. She begins the book with her childhood days and playing in the back yard, and how she forms a connection with the birch tree that grows in the front yard of her childhood home. Her birch buddy is synonymous with home and the author aesthetically links birches, their struggle to survive, and how their shallow roots test the soil, grow, and finally mature to that of her struggles, and finding her ground while branching out. Her discovery that there is something about trees, how they become a metaphor for living, and a guiding symbol for finding home is what makes the memoir and the author’s words form a connection with readers. The author’s uplifting encounters with birch trees will leave readers motivated to have a different perception of life, and will enable them to handle the triumphs and tragedies of life in a contented way. Reading this book is empowering as it is about survival, faith, and perseverance. The spirit of the birch tree runs through the memoir - convincingly, powerfully, and with intensity - and gives a sense of calmness, grounding, and centeredness to readers. This memoir is about finding home and will touch readers in many ways. The author’s self-discovery, her sense of belonging, and struggles with life are real and can be related to well by readers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    The teen-age years usually rate 5-stars on the “most challenging life decade” scale, but I agree with Nancy Chadwick that the twenties can be just as confounding, even more so. Yes, finding your way in the world of jobs, dating and adulthood has the allure of promise and exploration, but if you possess neither the tools nor loving guidance on how to navigate this new terrain, it is also replete with disappointment, loneliness and endless self-questioning. Many times in this heartfelt coming-of-a The teen-age years usually rate 5-stars on the “most challenging life decade” scale, but I agree with Nancy Chadwick that the twenties can be just as confounding, even more so. Yes, finding your way in the world of jobs, dating and adulthood has the allure of promise and exploration, but if you possess neither the tools nor loving guidance on how to navigate this new terrain, it is also replete with disappointment, loneliness and endless self-questioning. Many times in this heartfelt coming-of-age memoir I wanted to scoop up the younger, discouraged Chadwick, bring her home, feed her hot soup and tell her how spunky she truly is. She finally learns this for herself, and this reader cheered for her well-deserved reward—self acceptance, peace of mind, and home.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rita Dragonette

    An extremely personal recounting of the journey of a life and the lessons it has taught the author. The memoir, with its perhaps-too- ready-to-bend-but-refusing-to-break birch tree metaphor achingly strives to find meaning and apply patterns to a sometimes mystifying series of passages—to ferret out reasons why and why not. Chadwick is a gifted story teller with an open heart looking to equally understand and be understood. This reader wanted to find more universality but was satisfied with the An extremely personal recounting of the journey of a life and the lessons it has taught the author. The memoir, with its perhaps-too- ready-to-bend-but-refusing-to-break birch tree metaphor achingly strives to find meaning and apply patterns to a sometimes mystifying series of passages—to ferret out reasons why and why not. Chadwick is a gifted story teller with an open heart looking to equally understand and be understood. This reader wanted to find more universality but was satisfied with the more autobiographical story as it was told.

  11. 5 out of 5

    kathleen

    I loved this book and keep thinking about various passage of the book and the author’s journey to adulthood. The writing is beautifully description and patient with the subject matter and events so that the reader has a chance to be immersed in her life, see what she learns and experiences and then I found myself thinking about my own journey to adulthood. I highly recommend reading this book and would make an excellent book club selection.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David W. Berner

    An honest story of how all of our lives have deep, resonating meaning. No life is without challenges, triumphs, and tragedy. A relatable, heartfelt telling of how we all find our way by not forgetting a past that might have been difficult, but simply by understanding it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judith M.

    Just as the Birch tree conveys its strength as trust, so too does Chadwick demonstrate her faith throughout this memoir. Found myself rooting for Chadwick's happiness as she held tightly to her mantra that God will never let anything bad happen. Just as the Birch tree conveys its strength as trust, so too does Chadwick demonstrate her faith throughout this memoir. Found myself rooting for Chadwick's happiness as she held tightly to her mantra that God will never let anything bad happen.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    I just finished your wonderful memoir!! What a terrific read. I enjoyed reliving the time periods thru your eyes. Who would have known that your true J school was your journal. Congratulations!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Moriah Conant

    It may be the generation gap, but I struggled to feel a connection with the author and her writing style. There seemed to be too much dialogue for a memoir, and I didn’t see the theme of the book as heavily as I wanted to. I wish the author shared more about what she learned about home through her years of life and multiple moves. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Cox

    Nancy Chadwick's memoir about finding a sense of self and home through birch trees was a lovely, refreshing read. The author paints a very vivid picture of her early childhood in the Chicago suburbs in the 1960s and '70s, a somewhat lonely life that was further torn apart by her parents' divorce. Chadwick skillfully writes of her subsequent quest for belonging and peace, which will surely resonate with many. A delightful read! Nancy Chadwick's memoir about finding a sense of self and home through birch trees was a lovely, refreshing read. The author paints a very vivid picture of her early childhood in the Chicago suburbs in the 1960s and '70s, a somewhat lonely life that was further torn apart by her parents' divorce. Chadwick skillfully writes of her subsequent quest for belonging and peace, which will surely resonate with many. A delightful read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard Blakeley

    The Person we become Under the Birch Tree is an honest memoir on a lifelong journey that has formed Nancy Chadwick into the person she is today. It is very well written and shows her journalistic prowess. I consider Under the Birch Tree to be a textbook on writing memoir.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I found the book all over the map. The reference to always finding a birch tree nearby wherever she landed I. Life was interesting.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Krkljes

    Under the Birch Tree is not your typical over the top drama. It is a story almost every one of us can relate to as it captures the feelings of being a child, a daughter, a sibling and the issues of high school insecurity, divorce, first loves, career turns and attachments to the past. Nancy brilliantly sets the stage with her birch tree which is her first friend and perfect metaphor for her struggles to persevere in life. She makes it through all life’s twists and turns with the notion that “God Under the Birch Tree is not your typical over the top drama. It is a story almost every one of us can relate to as it captures the feelings of being a child, a daughter, a sibling and the issues of high school insecurity, divorce, first loves, career turns and attachments to the past. Nancy brilliantly sets the stage with her birch tree which is her first friend and perfect metaphor for her struggles to persevere in life. She makes it through all life’s twists and turns with the notion that “God will never let anything bad happen to me.” We begin to believe it, and not in a religious way, but in the “you’ve got this” kind of way. With every hard knock, Nancy struggles, mourns and then dusts her sandals off. This book is for anyone, especially those in challenging moments like divorce, career changes and the ups and downs of relationships. If you are a parent or teacher this should be offered to your kids and students, especially those who experience the normal struggles with youthful awkwardness and challenging moments of life. If you, your kids and students are asking the questions of “will I ever make it” or “why is this happening right now?” or “Do I have this?” this is the book for you. Things happen for a reason and timing is everything. Nancy’s memoir eloquently establishes this premise as she continues to say “God will never let anything happen to me” while reminiscing her time spent “Under the Birch Tree”.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Diane

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amileigh Gordon

    #GoodreadsGiveaway

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Kathleen

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Bristol

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy Malone

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michele

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beverly J.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diana Keener

  29. 4 out of 5

    Felicity Gorham

  30. 5 out of 5

    A

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