My Mostly Happy Life

Autobiography of a Climbing Tree

Fiction - Fantasy - Urban
274 Pages
Reviewed on 01/27/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Shelly Reuben's background as a private detective, journalist, and certified fire investigator has inspired her eclectic writing. Her crime novels have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon Awards, and her adult fable, The Man with the Glass Heart, was a Freedom Book Club selection. Her fiction has been published by Scribner, Harper, Harcourt, and Blackstone Audio Books. She writes two newspaper columns, and her books have been serialized in Huntington News and The Evening Sun.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Shelly Reuben’s My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree is the work of great imagination, as inspiring as it is engaging. It’s a story about the life of a community, centered on a park and told by a climbing tree. Sam Swerling is a WWII veteran who decides to gift his community with a park filled with trees. The Samuel Swerling Park then becomes a wonderful place of leisure, enjoyed by lovers, painters, and children who love to climb the trees. The Climbing Tree enjoys the activities that take place in the park and becomes a great witness to human stories and interactions, but then there is Jarvis Larchmont, a politician who was thrown out of the park in his childhood for bullying and who has been the cause of pain to the Climbing Tree. The Climbing Tree has enjoyed a long and happy life, but tragedy looms ahead and that life could end unexpectedly with the hurricane. What follows is moving and it’s for the reader to find out.

It takes a lot of intelligence and skill to make readers love a character, but to make a tree echo human sentiments is genius, and Shelly Reuben has it. Her story is told in a hypnotic first person narrative voice that grabs the reader’s attention from the first lines: “Trees get to know a lot of people. The longer we live, the more people we know. And the more we know about them.” This got me intrigued and, out of sheer curiosity, I continued reading, and then couldn’t stop. The author injects a lot of humanity and realism into the narrative and readers can't help feeling connected to the narrator. My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree is a masterpiece, told with great illustrations and a lot of human emotion, a story that links the reader to the environment. I have never read anything like this before.

Christian Sia

My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree by Shelly Reuben is the type of book I can’t classify, a very engaging, touching story told by a climbing tree and in an arresting voice. I could resonate with this book because I grew up in a place where we give names to trees and identify locales with the trees that stand at the center of the market place. In this spellbinding story, the author doesn’t just make the tree look like another piece in the backdrop, in the setting. It becomes a character, and a very interesting one at that.

When World War II veteran Sam Swerling creates a private park with many trees for children to play on, he opens a whole new universe to the community. Now, the park welcomes lovers, painters, beautiful girls who are eager to spend their time basking in the sun, and children who climb trees. The climbing tree and its kind are thrilled by the human touch and are just very delighted to spread out their branches and welcome everyone. But then the life of the park is threatened. What hope is left for the trees that are being separated from people and from each other?

It is surprising that a climbing tree can tell a story that is so emotional and deeply touching, a story that opens the eyes of the reader to the very life of the universe. Environmentalists will love this story, but it is also one for people with simple hearts, people who love nature, and people who connect with their environment. My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree is told in a gripping, first person narrative voice that compels the reader to follow the protagonist and the people who enter this world. Shelly Reuben’s novel is a gorgeous offering that will delight readers and remind them of what is most beautiful and tender in the world.

Stephen Fisher

My Most Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree by Shelly Reuben is a wondrous story that begins with the introduction of Samuel Swerling; a visionary who saved every penny he had earned in his father's tuxedo shops to purchase four decrepit buildings that stood on an elevated city block. After working out a deal with the fire department that enabled them to burn the buildings down for training purposes, and then having the city removing the debris afterward, he was left with two acres of land. He then hired arborist Alonzo Hannah to help him create and sculpt a park where children of all ages could come and play, and especially climb trees. Being an arborist, Alonzo grew and sculpted the trees so that they were just begging to be climbed, along with flowers, a pond and a fence that surrounded the park with only one entrance.

Shelly Reuben does an absolutely amazing job of telling this brilliant tale through the eyes of a climbing tree. Now this particular tree I will refer to as a she, because she was like a nurturing mother when it came to telling the histories of all of the characters, both human and pets, as if they were all her children. As the story develops, there is one character that stands out as the antagonistic bully, a child who grows into a vindictive adult and becomes a vengeful politician, bent on bullying the park from which he was ejected. My Mostly Happy Life brought back memories of every single tree that I had ever climbed, as well as why and whomever was with me, because it is personal. This story moved me in ways that no other book that I have ever read before has done. Shelly Reuben put me on an emotional roller coaster ride that I embraced and rode to the end. Like all great rides, I was left wanting to go again. Ruth McGraw's sketches displayed at the beginning and throughout the story really complement the author's descriptions. When I was finished with this book, all I could say was, "Wow!"

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Shelly Reuben’s My Mostly Happy Life is a charming story. Being a city kid, Samuel Swerling never saw a tree until he was eighteen years old. For Sam, it was love at first sight. Sam saves his money, purchases land and builds a park in the midst of the city. The Samuel Swerling Park, “a two-acre island of greenery,” has beautiful gardens, green lawns and plenty of climbing trees. The trees watch, listen and notice many things. One of the trees tells about his life being one of Sam’s climbing trees. The tree shares stories of friendships, love, generosity, and heartache spanning decades of time. The park is a safe haven, it protects “everything and everyone” inside it. Those who do not abide by the rules will be removed. This happens to Jarvis Larchmont, a bully of a child. Unfortunately, Jarvis never gets over his eviction from the park. The child brute returns to the park as a vindictive politician. What happens next is nothing short of a miracle.

Shelly Reuben pens a wonderful fable in My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree. The narrative is extremely captivating as it describes the world through the eyes of a climbing tree. But it is much more than visual; all your senses come to life, especially the sentiments of your heart. Reuben’s creative writing style flows with ease, it is truly magical. Adding to the written enchantment are Ruth McGraw’s exceptional illustrations. The cast of characters plays a relevant part in the climbing tree’s growth and development. Not one could be omitted. The characters are young and old, loving, kind, and compassionate. Except for the villain, of course, who is mean-hearted, devious and vain. The antagonist portrays the conflict of man versus nature in an extraordinary manner. I love the artistic nature of the story; the poetry, music, sculpting, painting, and engraving are the vitality, the nourishment, and foundation of the plot. My Mostly Happy Life reveals the beauty of nature and the heart of love. It is a story to remind us that “love and friendship save the day.”