At the center of “The Penny Tree” is a family going through a quiet crisis of miscommunication and unintentional neglect. Annie Hillman is a strong, independent woman who can be compulsive in some areas. When her youngest son Eric develops a life-threatening illness, she obsesses over him to the point of almost excluding her husband Jack and son Luke from her feelings. In the process her marriage disintegrates, Luke becomes alienated, and Eric feels the emotional pain his illness has produced.
Faced with huge medical bills and no money, Annie returns to her small hometown to live, work and attempt to find peace and a resolution to her mounting problems. She finds comfort in kayaking and in a magnificent Douglas fir tree upon which she and her father first nailed a penny when she was 12. Her penny tree is her refuge from the storm of her life.
In the midst of all this, mysterious ads seeking information about her begin appearing in the local paper. The ads have a 15 year old picture and claim Annie is the first woman the advertiser ever loved. While trying to discover the identity of the person placing the ads, she learns a lot about herself and her family and she becomes a minor celebrity. She is ably assisted in this process by her family, friends and some outsiders – characters richly drawn by Holly.
“The Penny Tree” is a warm, satisfying read with a surprise twist near the end that will require some tissues.
Great job, Holly!