Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic and chilis and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their secret love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the taverna’s blackened roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for Defne. Reunited, the two London-bound lovers return to the taverna to take a clipping from the fig tree and smuggle it into their suitcase. Years later, the fig tree in the garden is their daughter Ada’s only knowledge of a home she has never visited and guides her as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.
A moving, beautifully written and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history, and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak’s best work yet.