In this fantastical tale, by turns charming and pensive, Shelly Reuben gives us a park-dwelling, talking tree as our storyteller. And from this leafy perch, we too are viewers, observing a community’s unfolding joys, sorrows, memories, and triumphs. Curious children, romantic couples, and sage elders share their experiences, not knowing about the enchanted autobiography underway.
“The title is a reminder that even the most verdant refuge is never perfect. An interloper determined to bring dissension to the cast of characters must be uprooted. It is in this battle against evil played out in scenes ranging from witty to poignant that the book’s deeper meanings come to the surface. The black-and-white illustrations have just the right combination of realism and fantasy. Otherworldly, but still human. And humane.” Mary F. Holahan – Curator of Illustration, Delaware Art Museum
Among the Characters Within These Pages Meet:
Samuel Swerling: A World War II veteran and inventor, determined to create a park with trees that “positively begged children to leap into their branches and climb!”
Alonso Hannah: A one-armed arborist with a genius for training trees to grow in directions that either defy or improve upon nature, depending on your point of view.
Esther Swerling: The grandchild Sam always longed for who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, eagerly answered, “I want to be you.”
Ethan’s Best Friend: A bird named Pal, so valiant and loyal, a plaque about him in Sam’s park reads: “Twix man and bird in such a way; did love and friendship save the day.”
Mike Hurwitz: The Commissioner of Parks, with a “passion for flowers, shrubs, and trees,” who is absent without leave when his beloved plants need him most.
Winston the Ferret: A homeless creature who approaches Esther in Sam Swerling’s park, whose little eyes say “please,” and who will not give up until Esther takes him home.
Jarvis Larchmont: The bully, kicked out as a child, who seeks revenge against the park as an adult and initiates a plan to separate its trees from those who love them most.
The Narrator: Our autobiographical Climbing Tree, who tells us that, “Humans are not trained to hear the cries of climbing trees,” when stakes pierce his roots and cause him to scream in pain.
Advanced Praise for My Most Happy Life
My Mostly Happy Life is so delightfully detailed as to setting, characters and plot; Reuben’s diction so simple, clear and poetic I forgot that a tree was telling me the story. The illustrations by Ruth McGraw are many and lovely. Robert Knightly – Author of Bodies in Winter and The Cold Room
My Mostly Happy Life brings to mind the Norman Rockwell world of the legendary Saturday Evening Post. The story is told, believe it or not, by a placid tree in a small park envisioned by Sam Swerling’s This garden, too, has its evil serpent who grows up to become a city councilman intent on doing away with Sam Swerling’s park. That conflict affects all who love the park, you the reader, of course, and the characters who hold you in their spell. David Williams – author of the novel Second Sight
“It is truly amazing what wonderful things can happen when people spend time in a park that is filled with climbing trees.” Indeed it is. Reuben has given a book full of love and gentleness to a world that needs those qualities more than ever. David Stout – Recipient of the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America
Huntington News: Shelly Reuben’s new novel, My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree, is a unique blend of fantasy and realism that captures your attention right up to its climactic chapter. Robert Rusting, Rusting Publications – Friday, April 27, 2018
The Evening Sun: “…brisk story-telling, adroit dialogue, and authentic emotion keep the escapades of the tree and his friends lively and light-hearted.” Mary F. Holahan, Curator of Illustration, Delaware Art Museum – Friday, April 27, 2018
Thoughts in Progress: “This story is filled with highs and lows, sorrow and happiness, and a whimsical outlook that will have you smiling despite yourself. Reuben has a exceptional way of bringing the tree to life as a narrator…The story flows smoothly and at a good pace. It holds you spellbound until the very end.