Maybelline visits her old town, Santa Rosa and searches out her favourite tree where she and her late husband used to picnic when they were young. Amazingly the tree is still there, but the land where it stands is for sale. Maybelline goes for dinner with the realtor (who happens to be an old friend) and finds herself "the owner of a lot that used to be part of a 25,000-acre ranch, a 25,000-acre ranch covered in wildflowers, hawks, deer, bobcats, oak trees, all but two-acres of it now under somebody's bathroom"
Maybelline wonders why she allowed herself to be persuaded to buy the land, but as she meets children who play near the tree and finds out the connections their families also had to the tree, she comes to understand its value and the importance of what she can do to save the tree for future generations. She then finds herself in a war over the lot, which a company has earmarked to build a store, and finds common purpose with Oak and Joni, a couple of young eco-activists. Their battle to save the tree isn't easy, involving as it does endless literature searches, excess bureaucracy, greedy business owners and Joni and Oak's own personal arguments.
The story is engaging and by focussing on the details of trying to save one tree, highlights various aspects of a type of dispute becoming more common all the time and the tragedy of how small are the remnants of wilderness that are left to save in some places. The narrative also really brings to life Maybelline's conflicted feelings about getting involved in something so complicated at her advanced age and her intergenerational friendship with Joni and Oak. The story is lightened with amusing incidents too to prevent it feeling all doom and gloom.
It's great to read a book where the protagonist is an older woman and inspiring to read of such a spirited environmental campaign to save a tree. The story would make a brilliant film!