Set in rural Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, this redemptive tale will speak to the hearts of those who’ve lost a loved one.
Oriana, a young girl whose father died—in the snow, with arms outspread like angel wings—mourns deeply. She becomes lost in a fantasy of her father as a winged creature of the forest behind her house. She devours fairy tales given to her by Olive, the elderly librarian, and plays alone in the woods, sensing her father’s presence. When Harry Crane, a 30-something USDA Forestry Service employee, makes an unexpected appearance in Oriana’s forest, she's not surprised, for he is surely a sign. Harry, reeling from the loss of his wife (something he believes is his fault), is in deep despair when he meets Oriana. He discovers a book she’d lost in the woods—The Grum’s Ledger, which should be required reading for everyone. The two form a bond, sanctioned by Oriana’s mother, Amanda Jeffers, who hopes Harry will lead her daughter back to reality. The twisting, intriguing events that follow are anchored to reality but perceived by Oriana (and Harry) as magical. Cohen (Dentist Man, 1993, etc.) has plotted well and peopled his novel with a series of flawed, perhaps exaggerated characters. From Wolf, Harry’s fearsome brother, to Ronnie, whose insecurities lie deep, to the lucky ones who get a visit from the elusive Susquehanna Santa, the characters entertain and irk. This is a story about grief and the many ways to heal; about redemption; about forgiveness; about letting go; but most of all, about the power of the human spirit to soar above tragedy and reunite with joy.
Don’t let the term fairy tale scare you away, for, as Cohen says, “Enchantment is a part of everyday existence.” Oh, and it’s also a chuckleworthy story.