The Wishing Trees
John Shors (Adult Fiction)
Kate McCray died ten months ago, but her absence remains as fresh and painful for her husband, Ian, and their ten-year-old daughter, Mattie as the day she slipped away from them. Upon her death, Kate leaves a letter for Ian expressing her dying wish: “Be happy. Learn to laugh again. To joke. To wrestle together like you once did. Learn to be free again.” To achieve these things, Kate wants Ian to take Mattie on the trip the two of them intended to make to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary. A trip across Asia that would allow Mattie to experience what her parents once shared in so many diverse and wondrous countries: Japan, Nepal, Thailand, India, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. But can Ian do it? Can he revisit a past full of memories of his wife in order to forge a future without her?
John Shors delivers a touching and bittersweet story of a husband and daughter embarking on a journey of self-discovery, healing, and enlightenment. Although deceased, Kate remains a prominent presence and central figure throughout the story. She has left handwritten notes inside twelve film canisters—six each for Ian and Mattie—which are to be opened upon the pair’s arrival in each country. Kate’s words of love and encouragement are a constant reminder of the tender and altruistic person so tragically torn from our main characters. Her careful planning of this trip, despite her weakened state, and her desire for her family to move on without her is heartbreaking in its selflessness and hopeful in its intent. What’s most striking is Kate’s constant encouragement for her loved ones to make a positive difference in the world. In one of her letters to Mattie, Kate writes of Buddha, “Do you know what Buddha says about happiness? He said, ‘Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.’” With each canister that is opened and with each note that is read, we can easily understand how indomitable a task it is for Ian and Mattie to emotionally recover from their loss.
The Wishing Trees is a beautifully written love letter to anyone who has ever lost a love and hungers for a sign—any sign—that they’re still with us. That they still see us. That they still remember us. It’s also a story about the power of kindness and the extraordinary healing powers in doing good. Numerous books have been written on research connecting helping others to health benefits or, simply stated, doing good is good for you. Perhaps Kate knew this all the time or perhaps she remembered an Indian saying during her travels, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com