Book Review: Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

Harry’s Trees is a treasure of a novel about overcoming grief and figuring out how to keep moving forward. It’s so good I’ve added it to my top 10 favorite books list (which exists only in my head).

Harry is a forest service bureaucrat (ie, desk jockey) who is overwhelmed by grief by his wife’s sudden death. After about a year of suffering, he flees to a forest to be with his beloved trees and deal with his wife’s death in his own way. While in the woods, he meets Amanda and Oriana, a mother and daughter who are likewise grieving the loss of a husband and father who died the previous year.

The daughter, Oriana’s, coping mechanism is troubling to Amanda. Oriana is convinced her father has just been changed into some type of winged creature and is still living in the forest, watching over Oriana and Amanda. She fuels her obsession by devouring fairy tale books from the local library.

But one of those books turns out to be the catalyst for healing. Harry, Oriana and Amanda are good for each other and together they manage their grief and learn how to let go.


Although this story was about grieving, it isn’t overwhelmingly melancholy. There are some sad parts, the novel is mostly uplifting and frequently funny and quirky. The theme of people helping each other to heal was beautifully developed, and the weaving in of fairy tale elements was so creative. There was even a big bad wolf – Harry’s brother, appropriately nicknamed Wolf.

Which brings me to the cast of characters. There are so many likable, humanly flawed characters in this novel. Harry’s loss was palpable. He said his wife “danced on water” and he was completely unmoored without her. Amanda also lost a larger-than-life spouse, but the tough mountain woman/ER nurse handle her grief more stoically. And Oriana is a force to be reckoned with, ultimately the catalyst for a happy ending. The secondary characters are memorable, too, including a slightly magical old librarian, an incompetent realtor/villain, wolfish Wolf, and a gaggle of lovelorn men too intimidated by Amanda to make a move.

I can’t say enough good things about Harry’s Trees. I looked forward to reading it every day and was sad when I reached the end, even though overall the story left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Thanks, Mary, for the great recommendation!

If you’ve read Harry’s Trees, let me know what you thought. And if you’ve added any books to your Top 10 list recently, please share!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

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