Excerpt from Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Harry's Trees

by Jon Cohen

Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen X
Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen
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    Jun 2018, 432 pages

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Norah Piehl

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Harry ate lunch at his desk (if he ate at all), worked late and, on occasion, if the cleaning crew didn't shoo him out, slept in his chair. Chairs were good, beds were bad. Bed: the place where Beth was most dreadfully absent. Alone in the office at night, he'd climb up on his desk and stare out over the sea of cubicles, empty white graves stretching into the black beyond.

Then, one blustery early April morning, his cell phone rang. Well, not rang, exactly. As a joke, a few years ago, Beth had snuck a novelty ringtone onto his phone—the sound of a large tree falling to the forest floor.

"Hello?" he said, picking up on the third fall.

"Harry Crane!" boomed the voice of God in his ear.

For who but God spoke at that volume and with such heart-stopping authority?

"Yes, sir?" Harry whispered.

"Harry, speak up. You there?"

Oh, Harry thought, not God, but His super-aggressive lieutenant, Jeremy Toland. Once a month for the last year, Toland called with updates Harry did not wish to hear. He never gave Toland a thought, except during these brief phone calls, never seriously contemplated where all that legal effort might lead. Harry didn't care. The outcome of the lawsuit would not affect him one way or the other. But today there was something extra in Toland's voice, a powerful mix of testosterone and adrenaline. Harry's body began to tingle. "Yes, I'm here," he said.

On Toland's end, a long suck of breath like an approaching tornado takes just before it explodes the windows out of your house. "Give me a 'J,' Harry!" yelled Toland, like an insane cheerleader.

"J?" repeated a stupefied Harry.

"Now give me an A-C-K! And what's that spell? What's that spell?!"

"Jack?" said Harry in a faraway voice. Sweat prickled, his heart accelerated.

"That's right! Jack! As in jackpot, Harry! Never, my friend, never ever have we had a defendant in a wrongful death case settle so quickly. This could've gone on for years. For decades! But these pricks were multiple violators, and we had 'em." Toland chortled and growled, "We had Carlisle Demolition by the balls, baby, and we squeezed until the bastards said ouch."

Harry winced.

"Oh yes," roared Toland. "We seized 'em and squeezed 'em to the tune of—okay, remember our first meeting when I told you the average award for wrongful death in Pennsylvania is four-point-two million dollars? You ready, Harry? One minute ago, Carlisle Demolition settled for seven million unprecedented dollars!"

Harry left his body and returned to it, the atoms of his brain short-circuited as if struck by lightning. Seemingly on its own, Harry's left hand withdrew the wallet from his back pocket. His fingers groped for the faded lottery ticket inside, the irrefutable evidence of his unforgivable sin.

Toland kept talking, the echoey cascade of words like coins regurgitated from a slot machine. "Of course, this doesn't bring dear Beth back, but I'm telling you, my friend, it's the next best thing. This is her gift to you. From the Other Side, Beth is saying, 'Harry, your life begins again right now. The past is the past, move on, I release you. And I bless your future with this financial windfall!'"

Harry hung up on Toland and held the lottery ticket out in front of him with both hands like Lady Macbeth gripping her dagger. Working at the Forest Service had not been the punishment but only Limbo. Now he grasped why he had allowed the lawsuit to go forward: to deliver absolute guilt. He could never tell himself, At least I didn't buy a winning ticket that day. At least, there is that. Because he had won. The jackpot just took a little longer to arrive, that's all. Here it was, his millions. It was official, unequivocal: he had given his Beth away for a bag of money. Jackpot, Harry!

Excerpted from Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen. Copyright © 2018 by Jon Cohen. Excerpted by permission of Mira. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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