New novel by Trees ’90 explores privilege, secrets

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New book: Club Rules, by Andrew Trees ’90 (St. Martin’s Press)

The author: Trees was a history teacher at Horace Mann School in New York City until publication of his first novel, Academy X (2006) — set in an elite private school in New York where the main character, a 30-something single English teacher faced pushy parents, manipulative students, and administrators who engage in unethical behavior to appease wealthy donor-parents — eventually got him fired. His new novel also is set in an upper-crust world: Eden’s Glen, a wealthy Midwestern enclave where life revolves around Lakeshore Country Club. Trees wrote Decoding Love: Why It Takes Twelve Frogs to Find a Prince, and Other Revelations from the Science of Attraction (2009), in which he examines why people fall in love, and The Founding Fathers and the Politics of Character (2004).

The plot: In Eden’s Glen, a world of privilege, the Winthrops stand out as owners of a family bank and hosts of sought-after parties. But position and money doesn’t always buy happiness. Long-married Preston and Anne Winthrop are the town’s golden couple, yet a buried secret emerges one summer, amid tee times and ladies’ lunches, that changes their lives.

Review: “As every other character aspires to have what the Winthrops have, all the goals are based on lies and artifice. Trees is an accomplished writer and depicts with great clarity the venal and grasping nature of this world’s inhabitants, and skillfully lays the groundwork for the inevitable tragic ending,” wrote Booklist.

From chapter one: “It was a glorious early summer day in the year 19–. A happy time. A prosperous time. A complacent time. Not that the town was untouched by the winds of change. The distant tremors of social upheaval had lapped gently against its shores. There were whispers that America might be losing its pre-eminent place. But it was hard to take those whispers seriously amid the bucolic splendor of Eden’s Glen, and the whispers were too faint to scale the high, ivy-covered walls that girded the Oak Hollow Country Club, whose cathedral of trees seemed to buttress the very sky. As couples strolled side by side through the verdant paradise of the club’s immaculate golf course to compete in the Benedict Cup, it was difficult to think anything but that God was in His heaven and all was right with the world.”

By Katherine Federici Greenwood

(Author photo by Heesun Lisa Choi)

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