A young man searches for meaning and purpose in an age of irony. Individual insights and relationships set upon the backdrop of world politics make The Rowan Tree a compelling first novel.
A novel might not be based on facts, but it can’t survive unless the emotional resonance comes from a place of truth. And in The Rowan Tree, the truths are everywhere. The small truths about relationships, family, and connections. The larger truths about politics, worldviews and social change.
It is the type of novel that is often called “sweeping” – it spans six decades and has a backdrop of global politics as a framework. It tackles tough subjects, the types of subjects that often lead to heated conversations on The Good Men Project – education reform, interracial relationships, nuclear disarmament, world government, college and pro basketball. But it is not what the novel is about as much as what it is that makes it come alive. It is overlapping stories about how the world at large impacts the individual characters, and how the individuals within the book impact the world.
At the opening of the novel, protagonist, Rowan Ellway has just been elected president of Jefferson College. Jefferson, presidents, education are all prominent themes throughout. In the span of the next sixty years, the book dives deep into the characters and all of the complications their relationships bring. Along the way are enough plot twist and turns to make this a true page-turner. Ultimately, The Rowan Tree tells the story of a young man’s search for meaning and purpose in an age of irony. He finds it in his discovery of the centrality of dignity in human relationships, and this insight propels him onto the world stage.
The author, Robert Fuller, is a physicist, a former president of Oberlin College, and a leader of the dignity movement to overcome rankism. He has consulted with Indira Gandhi, met with Jimmy Carter regarding the president’s Commission on World Hunger, worked in the USSR to defuse the Cold War, and keynoted a Dignity for All conference hosted by the president of Bangladesh. You will see in the book how the collision of art and life bring something real, true and that has lasting resonance.