Book Review – A House Among The Trees by Julia Glass

A House Among the TreesA House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a run of disappointing reads, it was a delight to discover A House Among The Trees by Julia Glass. The book centers on the recently deceased children’s book author and artist, Mort Lear, and the various characters who are left to pick up the pieces after he dies, including his long-time assistant, an actor who will be playing Mort in an upcoming bio-pic, the man who unwittingly inspired the character that made Mort famous, and the museum curator who is desperate to secure Mort’s papers and drawings for her museum. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into with this book, particularly themes of honoring the people we lose, (their stories and their legacies), of how and why people distance themselves from each other and how easy it is to get trapped – even by things that originally seemed positive. But what I really loved the most about A House Among The Trees was the author’s skill at creating her central character. Glass used the real-life children’s author, Maurice Sendak as the foundation for Mort, grafting layers of fiction onto elements lifted directly from Sendak’s life and using Sendak’s classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, as inspiration for the fictional story book that rocketed Mort to fame and fortune. In the hands of a lesser author, this could have backfired badly, but Glass manages to use just enough of the real author to make Mort feel like a real (and beloved) part of her readers’ childhood and to infuse Mort’s book with the same sort of menace and wonder that was often found in Sendak’s work. This works well to draw the reader into the story, giving them a real emotional connection to Mort and making them feel invested in his story and legacy.

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