I had heard of the book long before picking it up at my local Border's on a lazy Friday afternoon, but I didn't know the premise: A lonely, middle-aged, midlist writer moves to Rhode Island in an attempt to finish (start, actually) her long-awaited novel. There, in the house she rents, she comes into contact with a malevolent tree. Soon she finds the previous (dead) tenant's manuscript in the basement, and it is all about the tree. Despite her attempts to either give the manuscript away or forget about it, she finds herself drawn to its content. It isn't long before she is risking her health and sanity just by staying in the house, for the tree seems to have powers beyond her mental grasp—some of this due to her reluctance to even believe in the supernatural.
Normally, the idea of a character struggling with belief in the supernatural is something I find annoying, mostly because it's so obvious it's the writer's disbelief shining through in the form of a character's thoughts. And yet, despite the autobiographical feel to the book (many real-life details, such as Kiernan's move from Atlanta to Rhode Island, are in the novel), Sarah Crowe's (the MC) reluctance felt perfectly natural. I think this was due to Sarah's desperation to hold onto reality no matter what happened throughout the story. It felt almost as though she felt her atheism was the only piece of sanity she had.
But it wasn't just the premise that grabbed me - it was the writing. How often do we find a book, get excited about its premise, order it online, wait impatiently for it to come in the mail, only to discover when it does that it wasn't worth all the trouble? I didn't find that to be the case at all with The Red Tree (not that I went through any of these things, but it would have been worth it if I had). I read it in just a couple of days. It's written in journal form, and if you don't like that style, well, it's your loss. I thought it was great. Looking forward to reading more of Kiernan's stuff.