A House Among the Trees
From the beloved author of the National Book Award winning Three Junes. The unusual bond between a world-famous children's author and his assistant sets the stage for a richly plotted novel of friendship and love, artistic ambition, and the power of an unexpected legacy.When the revered children's author Mort Lear dies accidentally at the Connecticut home he shares with Tomasina Daulair, his trusted assistant, she is stunned to be left the house and all its contents, as well as being named his literary executor. Though not quite his daughter or his wife, Tommy was nearly everything to the increasingly reclusive Lear, whom she knew for over forty years since meeting him as a child in a city playground where Lear was making sketches for Colorquake, a book that would become an instant classic. Overwhelmed by the responsibility for Lear's bequest, she must face the demands of all those affected by the sudden loss, including the lonely, outraged museum curator to whom Lear once promised his artistic estate; the beguiling British actor recently cast to play Lear in a movie; and her own estranged brother. She must also face the demons of Morty's painful past the subject of that movie and a future that will no longer include him. A visit from the actor leads to revelations and confrontations that challenge much of what Tommy believed she knew about her boss's life and work and, ultimately, about her own."

A House Among the Trees Details

TitleA House Among the Trees
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 13th, 2017
PublisherPantheon Books
ISBN1101870362
ISBN-139781101870365
Number of pages368 pages
Rating
GenreFiction, Writing, Books About Books, Literary Fiction

A House Among the Trees Review

  • Jill
    April 14, 2017
    I may be one of the few people reading A House Among the Trees who didn’t know beforehand that the book was inspired by the famed children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak and his legendary book, Where The Wild Things Are.No matter. This intelligently written, character-driven novel stands on its own merits, using Mr. Sendak as a departure point and then building a wholly original character in Mort Lear, who is cared for by his trusted assistant Tomasina (Tommy) Daulair – whose brother Da I may be one of the few people reading A House Among the Trees who didn’t know beforehand that the book was inspired by the famed children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak and his legendary book, Where The Wild Things Are.No matter. This intelligently written, character-driven novel stands on its own merits, using Mr. Sendak as a departure point and then building a wholly original character in Mort Lear, who is cared for by his trusted assistant Tomasina (Tommy) Daulair – whose brother Dani just happens to be the prototype for his own character, Ivo.When Mort dies – and we know he has died from the first few pages – Tommy is named his literary executor and is left with a lot of memories and a palpable feeling that she may not have known the man to whom she has dedicated much of her life. When the well-known British actor and heartthrob Nick Greene shows up at her door – wanting to find out more about Mort Lear because he wants to inhabit him in a soon-to-be movie – both realize that knowing more about Mort may be key to knowing more about themselves.Julia Glass is a fine writer and as a result, she does not rely on suspenseful plot twists and bells and whistles to elucidate the journeys of her characters. It might have been easy for her to fall into clichés with Mort’s younger gay lover who is dying from AIDS, or the spurned Book Museum director who believed her museum would eventually inherit Mort Lear’s archives. Instead, each character is fleshed out and becomes his or her own person.The questions this book raises are: do we really ever know another human being? Do we ever truly know ourselves? Are each of us acting a role in life? Does it matter that mysteries remain in the end? Should we ever expect to become “whole” by trying to solve those mysteries? The novel, I believe, could benefit from a bit of editing here and there, but still maintained my attention all the way through.At one point, Mort says in an interview, “A story is just like a road. It’s got to take you somewhere. Somewhere fun, somewhere new! The trip would be dull indeed without some unexpectedly sharp corners.” Here, in a House Among the Trees, Julia Glass is not particularly taking her readers somewhere new. But she is revealing new glimpses into life. And for me, as a reader, that is just enough. 4.5 stars.
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    May 26, 2017
    If you’ve ever read Maurice Sendak’s children’s books, you may recognize the central but now dead (mort) character in Glass’s new novel, Mort Lear. But don’t expect him to be modeled entirely after Sendak; this is not a bio or even a “faction” of the great artist’s life. Instead, this is Glass’s original creation, about adults attempting to actualize their lives in a continuum of age and experience.After an accident that kills Lear, his live-in assistant, Thomasina “Tommy” Dulair, is named Execu If you’ve ever read Maurice Sendak’s children’s books, you may recognize the central but now dead (mort) character in Glass’s new novel, Mort Lear. But don’t expect him to be modeled entirely after Sendak; this is not a bio or even a “faction” of the great artist’s life. Instead, this is Glass’s original creation, about adults attempting to actualize their lives in a continuum of age and experience.After an accident that kills Lear, his live-in assistant, Thomasina “Tommy” Dulair, is named Executrix, and inherits his house in the Connecticut woods, the land, and a tidy sum of money. This does not please her; in fact, the future and her further obligations to her boss and friend trouble her. For over thirty years, she has been his assistant—many of these years his live-in assistant, who was his Jackie-of-all-trades, directing and organizing all of his professional obligations. Lear was increasingly reclusive as the years passed, and Tommy was indispensable to him.At 55, Tommy was hoping to finally find a path separate and independent of Mort’s life, and perhaps repair the relationship with her estranged brother, Dani, who was unknowingly the model for Mort’s main character in his best-selling book, “Colorquake.” Not only does she have a mountain of decisions and legacy requirements, she now has to accommodate a five-day visit from Nicholas Greene, the British actor and recent Oscar-winning heartthrob, who made plans with Lear to come stay at his house in order to “study” Mort’s life. Nick is doing his homework/groundwork to star in a biopic of the American Lear, playing the late, great icon’s most relevant years, the beginning and next several decades of the artist’s crowning success. A child actor will play Mort’s early years, when he endured unforgettable personal trauma that shaped him as an artist and an individual.One task that Tommy keeps putting off is dealing with Merry Galarza, a museum director who expected to receive Lear’s estate, and was shocked to be shunned. This now consigns the museum to a shaky future. Like Tommy, Merry is single, childless, and, as allegory to the museum, at a loss about her future.Rounding out the cast is Mort’s one time great love, Silas, a flamboyant partier who died of AIDS, and caused friction between Tommy and Mort due to Silas’s emotionally immature and reckless behavior. His character was the least engaging, however, as his flamboyance and illness were treated with mostly pat and derivative execution. It didn’t bring anything new to the table about either the tragedy of living with AIDS (before the latest life-saving medicines), or tortured relationships.The book as a whole shines tantalizingly, as Glass hefts Mort, Tommy, Nick, Dani, and to a lesser extent, Merry, with a robust background that allows the reader to understand the fragile, struggling, and striving children within the adults. The narrative gives weight to the pressure of celebrity, “All celebrity does is arrange and spotlight your foibles as if they were mannequins in a shop window…you become a parade unto yourself, but if you are diligent and have a decent sense of direction, you determine the route.” Nicholas considers Lear’s celebrity while anxious about his own.Moreover, there are philosophical questions that are mined: what is a full life, and what makes us whole? Do we establish our identity through the prism of others, is life a theater where we are merely players, or can we become our genuine selves, comfortable in our own skin? Glass also explores sons raised by distressed single mothers, albeit in different eras, and examines how our childhood experiences affect our behavior and trust in others as adults.A few protracted scenes and events could have been redacted or tightened, but overall it was a thoughtful, character-driven, and highly engaging sixth novel from Julia Glass.
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  • Cynthia
    March 26, 2017
    A little uneven, but very good character development.
  • Kelly
    March 25, 2017
    Reading a Julia Glass novel is like entering another lifetime for a few hours. I tend to favor character-heavy books, and this one does not disappoint. Meredith, Nick, and Tomasina are people whose lives were pulled into the orbit of Mort Lear, a beloved artist and author of best-selling children's books. Tommy has been especially close to the man, having served as his assistant and live-in companion for nearly all her adult life. After Mort's sudden death, she, who thinks she knows Mort the bes Reading a Julia Glass novel is like entering another lifetime for a few hours. I tend to favor character-heavy books, and this one does not disappoint. Meredith, Nick, and Tomasina are people whose lives were pulled into the orbit of Mort Lear, a beloved artist and author of best-selling children's books. Tommy has been especially close to the man, having served as his assistant and live-in companion for nearly all her adult life. After Mort's sudden death, she, who thinks she knows Mort the best, realizes that there were secrets unknown to her that were revealed to others. How well do we ever really know another person? For that matter, how well do we know ourselves, and how much of what we do is to protect others or ourselves? Glass's characters are trying their best to figure it all out, and I loved them for it. Highly recommended.
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  • Bonnie Brody
    April 13, 2017
    I have loved every book I've read by Julia Glass and this one is no exception. Her writing is exceptional, her story line fascinating, and the literary quality of her novel is superb.Morty Lear, the protagonist of this book, is a world famous author of children's books and appears to be modeled after Maurice Sendak. His most famous creation, 'Colorquake', features a young character named Ivo who is much like Max in 'Where the Wild Things Are'. As the novel opens, Morty has just died and his love I have loved every book I've read by Julia Glass and this one is no exception. Her writing is exceptional, her story line fascinating, and the literary quality of her novel is superb.Morty Lear, the protagonist of this book, is a world famous author of children's books and appears to be modeled after Maurice Sendak. His most famous creation, 'Colorquake', features a young character named Ivo who is much like Max in 'Where the Wild Things Are'. As the novel opens, Morty has just died and his loved and cherished assistant, Tommy (short for Thomasina), finds that she has inherited his home and land and has become the literary executor of his estate. As she tries to take all of this in, she is forced to face some difficult truths about Morty's life and her own.There is a movie picture in the works about Morty's life. The star is Nicholas Greene, a new British sensation who has just won an Oscar. He will be playing the role of Morty. He plans on visiting the Lear estate in an attempt to find out as much as he can about Morty's life. Tommy, who is a lover of solitude, finds that the actor will be arriving shortly and she is aghast. Not only is she starstruck, but she is also very protective of her own solitude and Lear's legacy and life.As the story unfolds, it become obvious early on that Lear gave an interview to a leading news magazine in which he revealed that he was sexually abused early in his life. Why he chose to tell this particular journalist about his trauma is a puzzle. He has also been emailing Nick and Nick believes that what Lear revealed to the journalist is only part of what happened to him. As he searches for answers, more and more questions about Lear's life emerge.Another important aspect of the novel is that a book museum in New York City expected to be the beneficiary of Lear's literary estate. However, Lear's will indicates that he wants the bulk of his estate to go towards building a home for traumatized children. He wants this home to be called Ivo's house. Tommy is trying to balance all the various facets of Lear's estate at the same time she is trying to deal with the conflicted relationship she has with her brother Dani, the original model for Lear's Ivo. She has worked for Lear for decades and now, at 55, she is wondering if she truly has a life of her own. The novel is character driven and each and every character is fleshed out and given a rich and delicious fictional persona. Though there are some parts towards the middle of the novel that move a bit slowly, I still ate up every work. Glass knows how to entice and enchant her readers and she never disappoints.
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  • Nancy
    March 22, 2017
    If you are a proponent of the philosophy that "a good book should do more than just entertain," this is most definitely a good book.It is thought provoking;The characters are imperfect, thus alarmingly real;The story is complicated, if not complex (making it also rather life-like); And, I am not 100% sure I know what I thought about this book (which is fine).I am still sorting through it, so Julia Glass most definitely accomplished something that most contemporary authors do NOT do. I am still t If you are a proponent of the philosophy that "a good book should do more than just entertain," this is most definitely a good book.It is thought provoking;The characters are imperfect, thus alarmingly real;The story is complicated, if not complex (making it also rather life-like); And, I am not 100% sure I know what I thought about this book (which is fine).I am still sorting through it, so Julia Glass most definitely accomplished something that most contemporary authors do NOT do. I am still thinking about her book a few days after reading it and that is something I value in a book.
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  • Mary Lins
    April 21, 2017
    Ever since "Three Junes", I open any new novel by Julia Glass with a long sigh of pleasant anticipation. I did so with her latest novel, "A House Among the Trees", and was richly rewarded with another wonderful experience with Glass' beautiful prose and stellar story-telling. It will be on my Top Ten of 2017 List for sure.Moms, especially "Boy Moms", will immediately recognize that the main character, Mort Lear, is loosely based on children's lit writer and illustrator, Maurice Sendak, and that Ever since "Three Junes", I open any new novel by Julia Glass with a long sigh of pleasant anticipation. I did so with her latest novel, "A House Among the Trees", and was richly rewarded with another wonderful experience with Glass' beautiful prose and stellar story-telling. It will be on my Top Ten of 2017 List for sure.Moms, especially "Boy Moms", will immediately recognize that the main character, Mort Lear, is loosely based on children's lit writer and illustrator, Maurice Sendak, and that Lear's character Ivo is a stand-in for Max, in "Where the Wild Things Are" (raise your hand if you have it memorized!) As the novel opens Mort est mort, and he has surprisingly left everything, including his artistic legacy, to his long-time assistant, Tomasina (Tommy) Daulair. Tommy must now carry out Mort's wishes, one of which is to aid and encourage a biopic in the works to star Nick Greene, a handsome and newly famous British actor slated to play Mort on film.We also have Merry, a NYC museum curator who had counted on curating Mort's artifacts, who is now doubly surprised that Mort's new will (drawn up a few weeks before his untimely death) withdraws his support for her gallery, and puts Tommy in charge. Merry has always been dismissive of Tommy as a mere assistant to the great artist/author. (Ooops.) And WHY did Mort withdraw his support so suddenly and secretly? Well, you are going to want to keep reading to find out. And rounding out the cast we have Dani, Tommy's younger brother who figures in the creation of Ivo.The exposition structure of having Mort's life unfold for the actor, Nick, who will play him on film, is a wonderful way for Glass to reveal Mort's character and the character's of those surrounding him, both dead and alive. The novel unfolds flawlessly as Mort's life - a portrait of an artist and a man - is revealed, along with some surprising twists and secrets. Treat yourself to this absorbing and beautifully rendered novel.
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  • Alissa
    April 2, 2017
    Character heavy and slow moving but beautifully written (if occasionally a bit overwritten). That said, the characters are staying with me, and the many layers of this beautiful book are fascinating and thought provoking.
  • Rosemary
    March 10, 2017
    Mort Lear, beloved author and illustrator of children's books dies unexpectedly in an accident but remains a major force in the life of Tommy (Tomasina) Daulair, his assistant for decades. Mort has surprised her by leaving her everything and naming her literary executor. Tommy also inherits a scheduled visit from a handsome actor cast as Mort in an upcoming biopic and a museum curator to whom Mort previously promised his artistic estate. At the same time, she is reconnecting with her estranged y Mort Lear, beloved author and illustrator of children's books dies unexpectedly in an accident but remains a major force in the life of Tommy (Tomasina) Daulair, his assistant for decades. Mort has surprised her by leaving her everything and naming her literary executor. Tommy also inherits a scheduled visit from a handsome actor cast as Mort in an upcoming biopic and a museum curator to whom Mort previously promised his artistic estate. At the same time, she is reconnecting with her estranged younger brother. Although the actress playing Tommy has only a bit part in the movie about Mort and his career, Tommy re-examines her role in his life and in her own.(I received pre-publication access through Edelweiss.)
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  • Ann
    May 10, 2017
    I enjoy books by Julia Glass because her characters and setting are so lifelike. This story is narrated by Tommy, a young woman who meets famous children's author Mort Lear as a child and ends up working for him as personal assistant/housekeeper/general helper. When Mort dies unexpectedly he leaves her his house and in charge of all drawings, books and foundation. With a museum claiming he already promised his works to them and a movie deal that was arranged a week before he died her life is goi I enjoy books by Julia Glass because her characters and setting are so lifelike. This story is narrated by Tommy, a young woman who meets famous children's author Mort Lear as a child and ends up working for him as personal assistant/housekeeper/general helper. When Mort dies unexpectedly he leaves her his house and in charge of all drawings, books and foundation. With a museum claiming he already promised his works to them and a movie deal that was arranged a week before he died her life is going crazy. She handles it all beautifully and is a person I'd like to have as a friend. As she makes decisions and second guesses herself her life is moving along. From what I read in other other reviews this book is loosely based on Maurice Sendek.
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  • Nancy
    May 17, 2017
    Based loosely on the life of Maurice Sendak, this story reveals a lonely very famous children's book author, those he cares about and those who literally take care of him.
  • Elisha (lishie)
    May 10, 2017
    The book left me unsatisfied which is probably what the author meant to accomplish. While well written, the story left me sad & empty.
  • Janet
    April 1, 2017
    My favorite Julia Glass novel since THREE JUNES! I love this book and its cast of characters. Full of fascinating revelations and relationships, A HOUSE AMONG THE TREES is a book I hugged as soon as I finished it.
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