Monday, July 24, 2017

Julia Glass, One of the Kindest Writers I've Ever Read

Product Details

Ever since I read "Three Junes," the debut novel and surprise National Book Award winner from Julia Glass, I have looked forward to each subsequent book with a sense of longing. Ms. Glass is a kind, generous writer, a woman who truly seems to care for each of her characters no matter their foibles and human failings. Current times are so rife with anger, distrust, and judgment that it's refreshing to find a writer who exudes such a forgiving nature.

"A House Among the Trees," resembles several of Glass's previous books yet each has its own distinctive personality. Glass is a close examiner of familial relationships, especially among disparate siblings. Death is often the catalyst for division followed by rapprochement. Glass is always cognizant of the gay community and often she features characters who suffer from AIDS. She has not made an exception in this lovely, tender story which features the fatal accident of a world renowned children's book illustrator (some reviewers say he is loosely based upon Maurice Sendak) and the life long effect he had on siblings Tommy and Dani Daulair.

Morty Lear, the illustrator, is an outsized personality who has a penchant for goading people into doing his bidding. He flirts, flatters, and cajoles and though they know he's attracted to men, women easily fall under his persuasive powers. For his assistant, Tommy (Tomasina), a temporary job helping to organize the great man's trove of work slowly took on a life of its own.

For over thirty years Tommy subsumes her own life into Morty's, rarely questioning what she might be giving up. They share a home, first in New York, later in Connecticut, where Morty acquires the peace and quiet he needs to create and Tommy becomes the guardian at the gate. When Mort's lover, Soren, becomes ill with AIDS it is Tommy who nurses him, though their relationship has been contentious at best.

But not until Morty's death and the surprising announcement that Tommy will become the executor and beneficiary of Morty's enormous estate, does Tommy discover that even a thirty year friendship may not preclude secrets. Enter Nick Greene, a renowned British actor signed to play Mort Lear in a forthcoming biopic. Hoping to better understand the esteemed Lear, Greene begs Tommy for the opportunity to stay with her for a weekend at the Connecticut home, picking her brain, absorbing the atmosphere of his room, and scouring his studio.

Meanwhile, Tommy's brother Dani, a man whose life has been a litany of small failures and large resentments decides to descend without warning on Tommy that same weekend. He is accompanied by one of Glass's most delightful characters, Merry Galarza, the curator of the not yet built museum that was meant  to house the complete Lear archive, that is until it was all left in Tommy's care. Recently divorced, childless except for the dog, Merry's career may be sidelined at the ripe old age of forty if she can't convince Tommy of the worthiness of her proposal.

These and other wonderful personalities converge and diverge in this warm, wonderful examination of lost childhoods, loneliness, desire and desirability, and the very messy act of living.

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