cover image The Wishing Trees

The Wishing Trees

John Shors, NAL, $15 paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-451-23113-0

Though Shors (Dragon House) has skirted the edge of mawkishness in his earlier books, he crosses the line in this emotionally manipulative story of grief. Ian McCray is still a wreck a year after the death of his wife, Kate, when he finds a letter from her instructing him to take their daughter, Mattie, on the tour of Asia that she and Ian had planned for their 15th anniversary. Kate's helpfully left behind letters stored in film canisters to be opened in each country they visit, beginning with Japan, where Kate and Ian fell in love. During the trip, Ian and Mattie try to forge a closeness like the one enjoyed between mother and daughter, but it's no easy task, and Kate's letters, meanwhile, prove to be an emotional minefield. While the travel narrative is nicely handled, Kate's goodness is so overdone that she might as well have wings and a halo, and the letters she leaves behind are off-puttingly saccharine. Add the drawings Mattie leaves in "wishing trees" throughout Asia for her mother to see from heaven, and the result is like having your tears jerked at knifepoint. (Sept.)