“Of all the glorious enchantments of this world—spring, snow, laughter, red roses, dogs, books—love is by far the best.”
It’s hard to think that a story of a two grieving adults and a grieving child could be heartwarming. But that is exactly the case with “Harry’s Trees” by Jon Cohen. There’s tragedy, drama, love and a quirky librarian that combines for a great story.
Harry Crane works for the US Forest Service office, with emphasis on office. He longs to be among the trees but just can’t see himself leaving the comforts of his four walls. When his wife dies in a freak accident, Harry is overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. He spends one gloomy year wallowing in misery and sadness until he decides to leave the constricting confines of his office for the forest with the intent of fading to nothingness.
Amanda and Oriana Jeffers are dealing with their own tragedy. Their strong-as-a-redwood husband/father dies suddenly, an act so off-base neither can understand it. As a nurse, Amanda wonders what she could have done to prevent the untimely death of her husband. Oriana just can’t believe he is gone. While Amanda deals with the practical matters of running the household and trying to stay afloat, Oriana retreats to the woods and the wonderful treehouse her father built for her. An avid reader, Oriana buries her sadness in between the pages of books, searching for answers to questions no nine-year-old should have to consider.
Olive is the pipe-smoking town librarian who is desperately trying to save the town’s library. “What else is a library, but a temple of truth? What other function do books have, the great ones, but to change the reader?” Olive helps Oriana with her grief by keeping a fresh supply of books for Oriana to read (no easy task, as Oriana borrowed 112 books the year after her dad died). Then Olive gives Oriana “The Grum’s Ledger,” a book that infuses Olive with hope and magic. “The Grum’s Ledger” is a story within a story that brings meaning and closure to many.
Rounding out the story are a few other notable characters: Wolfe is Harry’s brutish brother and aptly named. His motivations are a bit of an enigma. Ronnie is the town drunk who is looking for redemption. Stu is the conflict bringer, a realtor with a deceitful side. And Susquehanna Santa is, well you’ll find out.
And then there is the forest. The trees. If you are not interested in learning a lot about trees you will probably skip past that part. As a born Pennsylvanian, I loved the descriptions as I often miss the forests of my youth. I could smell the air, see the blue sky through the green branches and hear the leaves crunch under my feet.
All of these people and elements combine for a truly enjoyable story. I was happy reading “Harry’s Trees.” There was enough tension to make it interesting and enough hope to make it redemptive. As Cohen writes: “There are no guarantees, except that every morning the sun will rise. No matter what happens, good or bad, each day will be followed by a new day.”
Thank you for reading!
Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events for a local resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.