The Miami Herald Neighbors

Published Thursday, June 7, 2001

Local author goes out on a limb to compose nature tale



The Story of Yew, a 2,000-year-old yew tree’s memories of the world and its creatures as she grows from seedling to mature tree, hit U.S. bookstores this month.

Written by Pinecrest resident Guido Mina di Sospiro, it was first released on Earth Day — April 22 — in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Book critics there compared it to cult classics like Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Watership Down, by Richard Adams.

It’s a mix of botany, history and fantasy, and it was written entirely in Pinecrest against a one-acre backdrop of sprawling oaks and gardens with frequent visitors of the animal kind — foxes, squirrels, raccoons and opossums.
“I’m in a city and I don’t see houses or cars,” said Mina di Sospiro, who hails from an old aristocratic family in northern Italy. He said he worked on the book, on and off, for 12 years.

His studio, with sound-proof double doors separating it from the rest of the house where he lives with wife Stenie and three sons, is lined with windows kept open so the breezes and tinklings of a nearby wind chime can come through.

The book’s title is also a play on words, as in “The Story of You” — because the tree’s story is meant to be a look at humanity, with its greatnesses and follies, through the ages, he said.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, there had been this glorification of inconsequential men and women in film and novels — gangsters and drug addicts, and it came to the point when I said, `Frankly, I don’t really care,’ ” Mina di Sospiro said.

“Then it was, `What do I care about?’ ” and so began his self-described “obsession” with trees and Ireland, where the novel is set.

Research took him to England, Scotland and Wales, but it was in Killarney, Ireland, about 200 miles southwest of Dublin, where he found his inspiration in nature and the local folklore.

“Ten years ago, [Ireland] was still a fairy tale,” said Mina di Sospiro, who listened to traditional Irish music on headphones as he wrote. “There I found all the elements of the book.”