All who know young Sebby Lane understand that his is an unusual child in may respects – that he experiences the world around him more vividly than most, a condition that only intensifies after that death of his best friend: his mother. Sebby misses her so acutely that he begins to dream about and even relive moments of her life, retreating deeper into himself until is almost inaccessible to his father and teenage siblings.
In an effort to give them both the time and space they need to recover, Sebby’s dad leaves his older children and takes Sebby to live in the family’s summerhouse. But his father deteriorates in this new isolation, leaving Sebby to come to terms with his mother’s death alone. Desperate for comfort and guidance, he reaches out to a favorite teacher back home in letters that reveal his private thoughts and fears as he struggles to understand his mother – bother her life and her death – and is led to wonder if he, to, is meant to share her fate.
Brinkman’s novel is definitely outside my comfort zone, meaning I wouldn’t usually pick it up. But after reading a recent review for the novel, I put in a request for it at my public library and settled down to read it on Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised.
Up High in the Trees is a beautifully written novel told from the point of view of a precocious eight-year-old boy, whom I suspect is autistic, although we’re never told. Despite dealing with the death of a mother, it’s a refreshing take on the difficult topic told for a unique voice.
“But, if my head is a camera, I can make Mother stay. I can make her hold still. And then it is okay for me to be here with David and Cass and Leo. I can be here in all of this time.” (pg. 302)
Sebby is a character that makes you want to jump through the novel and give a hug or, at least, put back up high in the trees.
“Now I remember sitting up high in the trees. I was happy and I kept jumping from one tree to another and the branches scraped my arms and legs when I jumped and landed, and jumped and landed. I had scratches all over. I could see the red scratches, bit I couldn’t feel them because I wasn’t really me yet. I was just a part of Mother floating up in the trees.” (pg. 25)
I enjoyed Sebby’s story, especially getting to know him as a character and his world. However, the other characters weren’t completely developed, especially Sebby’s father, Stephen Lane, and I found myself wishing for a little more info on his father’s deterioration. The ending also felt rushed, which detracted from the book as a whole, but all in all I enjoyed this novel. It’s a quick read that I’ve already recommended to two of my “bookish” friends.
- Brinkman, Kiara. Up High in the Trees. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 2007. Print. 326 pgs. ISBN: 0641961014 Source: Library.