Title: The Money Tree
Author: Helen Yeomans
Publisher: Guards Publishing
Release Date: November 2013
Length: 288 pages
The Frisbys have been growing money for ten years on their island farm and George has nearly perfected the art. Jane tolerates the temperamental money tree while worrying about its legality and her family’s safety. She also worries about the children. Daffy (18) is torn between careers in terrorism and economics (“How do we get from bad money to good money without going through hyperinflation?”), while 12-year-old Mike divides the world into soakers and soakees and wants to franchise the money tree. For ten years, the Frisbys have been harvesting their annual crop, and flawless Frisby dollars have been circulating freely. Then the Secret Service takes notice, and when forensic analysis proves dollars can be grown on trees, agents begin a rapid but stealthy search for the source, a search that soon turns international. Examining the stability of our monetary system, The Money Tree explores old money like silver coinage and new digital currencies like Bitcoin. At heart, though, this is a story of a tempestuous but loving family and its relationship to its island neighbors.
The Frisby family has grown money – U.S. dollars – in their island backyard and circulated it for ten years without incident. It is a family affair, and makes for some irregularities: the kids can’t have friends over, the parents must be stand-offish with other community members, none of them going beyond lukewarm politeness to creating lasting friendships on Ledyard Island in their small little corner of Canada.
When a strange sensation in Europe starts trendsetting around the world, Mr. Frisby’s former employers and the Secret Service get involved. Will the Frisby family find the friendships they so desperately need? Will their precious money trees be protected?
George – a horticulturist who discovered the money tree in the Amazon on an expedition for his former employer, he is concerned with improving the harvests
Jane – George’s refined wife, she tries her best to bring normalcy to the family
Daffy – 18 year old bothered by the current economic status of currency, heavily contemplates becoming a terrorist
Mike – 12 year old Uncle Scrooge teen Trump wannabe, he is very stringent with his dreams of franchising the money tree
Dave – the son of George’s former coworker, looks to George as a father figure
Ken – an Internet billionaire who helps Mike and Daffy
“Daff?” George was puzzled.
Mike was putting his jacket on. “She’s got a thing going with Terry Parker.”
“Good lord, Daff, again?” asked Jane. “What do you see in him?”
Daffy loaded her backpack. Mike went on:
“She should have had sex with three point four guys by now and she’s running way behind.”
The Highs and Lows
- The Plot. The Frisbys grow money in their two groves. They have perfected the process to bring the highest quality yield each year, but there’s one problem George can’t solve: the smell. Grown money has a distinctive smell that is attractive to animals. The Frisby family uses their money for charitable contributions, donating most of the money they grow annually. Jane even has an account set aside for taxes and fines! While the entire scenario seems so out there, Yeomans has done an excellent job setting it up in such a way that it actually sounds plausible.
- The Kids. Mike and Daffy are right in the thick of things. If anything, the book largely focuses on the two of them and how they bring about such a radical change for their family, from hiding in plain sight and living in secrecy to telling the world their story. Mike values money – all money, real or grown – and works hard for it. As such, he has an affinity for keeping it. He aspires to franchise their money trees – one on each continent – and has two potential candidates. His franchise business is his number one priority, and his attitude about it puts him in strict contrast to Jane, who is worried about his moral development. On the other hand, Daffy is the radical one. With dreams of becoming a terrorist, she scrounges world wide news sources every morning and ponders the politics and economic crisis she finds the world in. She sees beyond Mike’s money-making dreams and understands how the money tree could assist the poor and downtrodden.
- The Idea. After Dave’s rocky arrival, the Frisby’s take him in (and Mike plans for his first franchise) and teach him the ways of the money trees. He and Ken, whom the children befriend and bring into their circle, slowly and painfully work their way from Mike’s dream of a franchise to sharing their knowledge with the masses. When they have reached agreement, a news broadcast segment changes their lives entirely.
- Minor Characters. While the Frisby family lives on Ledyard Island, they are not alone. Jane takes part in some community activist groups, but overall the family is very distanced from their neighbors. The island is filled with interesting background characters that each have their own uniqueness and eccentricies, like Permastone Parker, the elderly hippie who grows medical marijuana, Ariadne Wu, the hungry real-estate developer who loves her money; Vern and Marge Parker, the couple who raise a family on their fifty-acre farm, Mrs. Bagnold, the oldest resident who rides her scooter to the cemetery daily to visit her husband, and many more.
- The Relationships. Slowly but surely Mike and Daffy begin forging relationships with a few “outsiders.” The first part of the novel is focused on the Frisby family primarily, and their relationships with one another. They are quite an interesting family. The latter part of the book moves beyond just the Frisbies and shows them they are not alone on Ledyard Island – they do have friends. It is a heartwarming show of standing up for your neighbors and your friends.
While I don’t presume to know an overabundance of information on politics and economics, it seems clear that Yeomans did her research that brings together everything in The Money Tree. Also while it’s not something I’m overly interested in, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. I liked Mike’s character the most. He is an interesting mix for a young boy.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
I’d recommend borrowing this one.
Helen Yeomans tried her hand at short stories, scripts and screenplays before settling on the novel as the form she liked best.
Starting out in the publishing industry, she worked in Toronto (Prentice-Hall) and London (Mitchell-Beazley) before founding her own company in Vancouver, providing editing and writing services to business clients worldwide. Her first book, The Christmas Carol Handbook, was published in 1987 and sold 10,000 copies.
She fell into fiction writing by accident while exploring the film industry as a source of editorial contracts. After writing three feature length film scripts, one of which was optioned, she tried her hand at shorter scripts then other fiction forms, including short stories for children.
Born in England and raised in Canada, Yeomans has had a lifelong interest in the relationship between people and their governments. She is an avid golfer who generally succeeds in playing well approximately once a year, loves movies and music and reading. She’s currently at work on her fifth novel.