I do not know where to even start regarding reading My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree by Shelly Reuben. Let us start with a synopsis as I try to organize my thoughts.
Once upon a time, Samuel Swerling, a World War II veteran and inventor, decided to build a park. It would be filled with trees trained to grow in such a way that children could easily climb them. To this end, he bought two acres of land, hired Alonso Hannah, a one-armed arborist, and began to turn his dream into the reality.
After five years, Alonso and Sam had created a small, privately-owned park in a big publicly-run city. Sam married Ghita, bought an apartment across the street from his park, and had five children.
People fell in love at the Samuel Swerling Park. Painters painted pictures; dogs chased Frisbees; pretty girls basked in the sun; and time stood still. Most of all, though, children did what the park had been built for them to do: They climbed trees.
The narrator of this book is one of Sam’s climbing trees.
He thrives on human contact, and in his long and happy life, he has had few disappointments. Lately, however, he is being subjected to life-threatening injuries by Jarvis Larchmont, a power-hungry politician who was thrown out of the park for bullying when he was twelve-years old.
Sam’s grandchildren, particularly Esther Swerling, are now in charge of the park. Esther is young, beautiful, and like her grandfather, an inventor. She is also ferociously protective of her heritage. When a hurricane floods the area, she and her family provide food, warmth, and shelter in the park to those seeking refuge. At the same time, the City’s beloved mayor is hospitalized, and Jarvis Larchmont is put in charge of the Department of Parks. Still bitterly resentful at having been thrown out of the park as a child, he joins forces with eco-terrorists to destroy Sam’s creation.
Suddenly, our narrator and his fellow climbing trees are separated from people. Separated from all that they know and love. Separated from children.
They cry…and they begin to die.
Then Esther, her friends, and her family organize.
And they fight back
“Trees that boys and girls could study as if they were living books;…”
‘“When Mr. Swerling talked about those trees to interviewers, he always used the same four words: “They stirred my soul.”’
“But when I get to the left side of his chest where his beating heart should be, my memory substitutes a tiny arboretum, and I see fluttering leaves performing the task he ascribed so long ago to those beautiful elms. They are stirring his soul.”
“As I said before, there is no magic in the Samuel Swerling Park. But there is grace here. There is warmth. There is enchantment. And we are capable of inspiring magical things.”
“She did not know that she was beautiful, because her inner tomboy had kept it a solemn secret, and she did not know that she was elegant, because nobody had ever told her that elegance is in the bones.”
“Sometimes, nothing needs to be said for everyone to know what has to be done.”
I could just keep going and going. I do not think I have ever written down more quotes from a novel in my entire life!
I feel like this is a review full of I have never or I never knew:
I HAVE NEVER:
Encountered a book about a generation of family which I have loved as much as this. When it comes to books which have a tendency to span generations, I usually find myself getting lost or loving one part of the family more than the other. This was definitely not the case with this novel.
I have never wanted to be a part of a literary family and friendship circle more than the one featured in this book.
Gone to check reviews thinking: “It can’t just be me, can it? I can’t be so in love with an autobiography written by a tree!” AND thankfully I am not alone with how amazing this book is and how impactful the story was to me. Which leads into:
I NEVER KNEW:
I could fall in love with an urban fantasy told from the perspective of a tree! I have always loved trees and been in awe of them, but when I received the request to read this book, I did not know that it would essentially change me.
That a book could connect with my current reads as much as this one did. Like they somehow reach out and give each other a sort of literary high-five in passing. My Mostly Happy Life mentions Henri Rousseau and his painting of jungles and this very artist was central to the ending imagery in a book featuring said artist called The Last Little Blue Envelope. IF there was such a thing as a literary road map which connects read to read and shows the reader they are on the right path, this was a perfect example of it.
I could fall in love with an author’s prose as much as I did with this novel. I felt as though I sat on the limbs of this glorious climbing tree and not only watched, but grew with the characters and the trees themselves.
I LOVED this book! I cannot recommend it enough. It takes you by surprise and you are rooted (oh I went there) in the story. You can find out more about Shelly Reuben at her website here and where to buy this amazing book!
I heart My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree this much:
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ !!
***Copy received from author in exchange for an honest review***