Harry's Trees (Cohen)

Harry's Trees 
Jon Cohen, 2018
432 pp.

When you climb a tree, the first thing you do is to hold on tight

Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, he is unable to cope.

Leaving his job and his old life behind, Harry makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, determined to lose himself.

But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragedy—Amanda stoically holding it together while Oriana roams the forest searching for answers.

And in Oriana’s magical, willful mind, she believes that Harry is the key to righting her world.

Now it’s time for Harry to let go…

After taking up residence in the woods behind Amanda’s house, Harry reluctantly agrees to help Oriana in a ludicrous scheme to escape his tragic past.

In so doing, the unlikeliest of elements—a wolf, a stash of gold coins, a fairy tale called The Grum’s Ledger and a wise old librarian named Olive—come together to create a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wildest dreams and open Harry’s heart to a whole new life.

Harry’s Trees is an uplifting story about the redeeming power of friendship and love and the magic to be found in life’s most surprising adventures. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, USA
Education—B.A., Connecticut College; R.N. (nursing)
Awards—Saturn Award for Best Writing (screenwriting)
Currently—lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Jon Cohen is an American novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of several novels, most recently, Harry's Trees (2018). As a screenwriter he is best known for co-writing the 2002 film Minority Report.

A native of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, Cohen was the son of a librarian and a English professor. After earning a B.A. in English, he switched tracks and got a second degree as a Registered Nurse, after which he worked for 10 years as a critical care nurse in Philadelphia.

During his time in nursing, Cohen began to write stories and, in 1991, published his first novel, Max Lakeman and the Beautiful Stranger. That same year Cohen also received a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The following year, 1992, Cohen's second book, The Man in the Window, came out (the novel was reissued in 2013 by Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries), and a third, Dentist Man, came out in 1993.

Then Cohen made another change: he decided to teach himself screenwriting—a decision that eventually led to working on the script for Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. That screenplay won him the 2002 Saturn Award for Best Writing (he shared the award with co-writer Scott Frank).

In 2018, Cohen published his fourth novel, Harry's Trees, in 2018. (Adapted from Wikipedia and BookPage. Retrieved 9/5/2018.)

Book Reviews
[W]insome but overstuffed novel…. Cohen tries to do too much in an otherwise straightforward narrative. Appalachian decline, the role of books in society, health care dysfunction, and dendrology are all packed into the novel…. The result is a story that never truly gets beneath the surface.
Publishers Weekly

[Starred review] Part fairy tale and… heartbreakingly realistic, Cohen's third novel will entrance readers from page one, and by the end, even skeptics will agree that magic can still be found in the most unlikely places and in the most surprising people if only we're willing to look.
Library Journal

[Starred review] When a young girl asks you to believe in fairy tales, sometimes you just have to obey. In Cohen's capable hands, the unlikely teamwork between an optimistic child and a wary adult makes for a tender tale of first loves and second chances.

[T]his redemptive tale will speak to the hearts of those who've lost a loved one… and the many ways to heal; about redemption; about forgiveness; about letting go; but most of all, about the power of the human spirit to soar above tragedy and reunite with joy.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for HARRY'S TREES … then take off on your own:

1. How would you describe Harry—what kind of man is he? To what extent is his guilt over Beth's accident self-imposed: is his self-blame senseless or understandable? What is the irony of Harry's work as an analyst given his love of trees?

2. Talk about the way Harry's life has been shaped by his childhood. How would you describe that childhood—his parents, brother, and general upbringing? For young Harry, what do trees come to represent?

3. Harry's Trees is based on the belief that "the ordinary world is extraordinary, all the time, for everyone." What is meant by the "ordinary" world, and does that world have special meaning for you?

4. According to Harry, "Everybody's got a special tree, whether currently as an adult, or a tree from childhood." What is it about humans and our love for trees? What about you: have you ever had a special tree?

5. In a BookPage interview, Cohen has said, "I truly believe that when you are in love or when you grieve, you cross a line and see the world in an altered way.” Do you agree with Cohen? How does Cohen's observation play out in his novel? Have you ever had the kind of experience that has altered your perception of the world?

6. Talk about Amanda and, especially, Oriana. What does Oriana's world look like as she wanders the woods after her father's death? Would you consider her mature or immature for a 10-year old?

7. This novel is very much about the power of books in our lives. How does the author portray their significance?

8. What draws Harry and Oriana together. How are their two minds or souls matched? Oriana sees Harry's appearance in her life as a sign. A sign of what? Equally importantly, what does Harry see in Oriana?

9. What creates the magical feel to this otherwise realistic novel? The book asks the question, where does reality end and magic take over? Where do you think the lines are drawn…in the book and /or in real life? What roles do chance or luck play in our lives.

10. Other than the lottery (duh), how are the characters transformed by the end of the novel? Are they?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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