Shelly Reuben Book Signing
Shelly Reuben brings her fanciful new novel to the Delaware Art Museum
Edgar nominated mystery novelist Shelly Reuben returns to the museum that inspired so much of her work to talk about My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree. In the great tradition of 19th authors like Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, Reuben’s novel was first serialized in newspapers; it is only now being released in book form. Also like her predecessors, her book is illustrated with artwork that captivates and delights.
Before Shelly takes center stage, Dr. Mary Holahan, our Curator of Illustration, will tell us a little about the illustrators in our world famous collection and how, historically, art and fiction in publishing have lived so long in “wedded bliss.”
Then join Shelly as she talks about Samuel Swerling, a World War II veteran and inventor who created a private park filled with large, leafy trees grown in a way that make them easy to climb. People fall in love in the Samuel Swerling Park. Painters paint pictures; dogs chase balls; pretty girls bask in the sun; and children do what the park was designed for them to do. They climb trees. It is an idyllic place where time stands still.
The book’s narrator is one of Sam Swerling’s climbing trees. He thrives on human contact, and in his long and happy life, has had few disappointments. Now, however, his very existence is being threatened by Jarvis Larchmont, a politician thrown out of the park for bullying when he was a twelve-year old boy.
Time passes. Sam’s granddaughter is a park trustee. Esther is young, beautiful, and like Sam, an inventor. When a hurricane floods the area, she and her family provide shelter to neighbors seeking refuge. At the same time, Jarvis Larchmont is put in charge of the city’s recreational facilities. Still bitterly resentful at having been thrown out of Sam’s park as a child, he joins forces with eco-terrorists to destroy it.
Suddenly, on Jarvis’ orders, our narrator and his fellow climbing trees are separated from all that they know and love. Separated from people. Separated from children.
They cry…and they begin to die.
But the Swerling family organizes. And they fight back.
My Mostly Happy Life is so delightfully detailed as to setting, characters and plot; Reuben’s diction so simple, clear and poetic—I forgot that a tree was telling me the story. The illustrations by Ruth McGraw are many and lovely. Robert Knightly – Author of Bodies in Winter and The Cold Room
Through the tree’s magical eyes and voice, we meet a panorama of very real people who find comfortable seating and deep solace in his welcoming branches…Brisk story-telling, adroit dialogue, and authentic emotion keep the escapades of the tree and his friends lively and light-hearted. Mary F. Holahan – Curator of Illustration, Delaware Art Museum
My Mostly Happy Life brings to mind the Norman Rockwell world of the legendary Saturday Evening Post. The story is told, believe it or not, by a placid tree in a small park envisioned by Sam Swerling…This garden, too, has its evil serpent who grows up to become a city councilman intent on doing away with Sam Swerling’s park. That conflict affects all who love the park, you the reader, of course, and the characters who hold you in their spell. David Williams – author of the novel Second Sight