In author Julia Glass’s latest character-driven novel, A House Among the Trees, Mort Lear, a famous children’s author, vaguely reminiscent of Maurice Sendak, unexpectedly falls to his death off the roof of his Connecticut home in a fluke accident. His longtime, live-in assistant Tomasina (Tommy) is left to pick up the pieces, address his fortune, complete unfinished business and come to terms with their co-dependent relationship. In addition, surprising details of Morty’s past surface, causing Tommy to question how well she actually knew him.
When Tommy was a child she saw an eccentric man sketching pictures of her little brother as she watched over him on the playground. She gave the man the O.K. to continue as long as her brother remained unaware, and years later she came across Mort Lear’s popular children’s book with those familiar illustrations from long ago. As a favor, and to pay her back for allowing him to draw her brother, Mort gives Tommy a job working for him, and 40 years later after setting aside her personal needs and living with Morty in the country, Tommy is left alone.
Mort’s best-selling children’s book has a movie deal, and the unlikely famous, British actor, Nicholas Greene, cast to be the lead, had been in touch with Mort via email, sharing private stories and developing an unprecedented relationship. Both had experienced loss, fame and loneliness in different ways and Nick had been looking forward to continuing to bond with Mort in person prior to his unexpected death. As a courtesy, Tommy agrees to host Nick for a few days and help him get a feel for what Morty’s life was like. Little did she know, to her shock and surprise, Nick had learned some personal details of Morty’s past that were very different from what he had shared with her during their lifetime together.
Tommy is faced with processing upetting information about Morty’s youth while hosting Nick at the Connecticut home, giving Merry the museum curator some bad news about artwork she had been expecting to receive, and reconnecting with her estranged brother who was never publicly recognized as the model for Morty’s popular illustrations.
Julia Glass provides well written back story to enrich the detail and provide depth as she weaves her story around the characters. She touches upon issues such as fame and loneliness, nontraditional relationships between adults and children, what we think is owed to us, family, legacy, loyalty and the individual quest for happiness. I enjoyed A House Among the Trees and highly recommend it for book clubs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julia Glass is a renowned author of many books of fiction, including Three Junes, which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002. Another of her novels, I See You Everywhere, received the Binghamton University John Gardner Fiction Book Award. She has also published essays in several anthologies. Julia Glass has received many awards in her time spent as a writer, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She resides with her loving family in Massachusetts.