The Cold River has dried up, disappeared and entire villages have been displaced, forced to move away in search of water. No one knows why the river is suddenly gone, but if the water does not return, more people will suffer. The town of Sagev, a village built on stilts and dependent on the river for fish and water for crops, is no exception to the suffering. The town leader, a wise old man named Boulder, is flummoxed and discouraged. In a leap of faith he decides to send his two young grandsons, Trenton, 14, and Scout, the younger brother, on a perilous journey to find the Togi Tree and the Togi Man. The Togi Tree is a magical tree that lives in the Cold River and can grow or shrink, move along the river and make itself invisible. And living within its towering branches is the Togi Man, a wise man said to have answers to important questions. Trenton and Scout must find the Togi Man and ask him how they can save their village.
Trenton and Scout, spoiled by their grandfather and strangers to hard work, take on the task reluctantly, but soon rise to the occasion. After a series of struggles they do indeed find the Togi Man, but what he offers is not what they expected. He tasks the two young men with finding the reason the Cold River has stopped and then to fix it. Overwhelmed, the brothers take on the journey, surviving thirst, heat and near death to find the surprising answer.
This coming-of-age story, the debut novel by author Bethlene Williams, takes readers on a pleasant and magical journey, one replete with a magical tree, a talking cougar and lasting friendships. The themes of family, hard work and rising to one’s potential are timeless and enjoyable. Although the dialogue is a bit stiff and the descriptions often bland, the narrative is smooth and the characters warm and likable. Young readers will find The Togi Tree a fun, easy read and adults will appreciate it as a quick, entertaining read. And those familiar with Utah will enjoy the references to local towns and landmarks.