The Trees – Percival Everett


The Trees is set in Money, Mississippi and is full of characters with names like Junior Junior, Hot Mama Yeller and Reverend Fondle. The white folk of the town suddenly start turning up dead, savagely beaten and with a black man’s body present, cradling the dead’s severed testicles.

Local and federal authorities get involved unsure if they are dealing with a serial killer or a haunting or someone seeking revenge for historical lynchings that make up a grim part of the State’s history.

The book reminded me of both Catch-22, with its absurdity and The Sellout, with its high level of satirical narrative that made me unsure if I should be laughing or cringing or crying. But what The Trees does do is absolutely lay bare the history of racism and racial violence in the US, with a reminder that issues remain today.

The book starts like a whodunnit, but don’t be fooled, this is not a murder mystery, this is a book where you need to look deeper than the plot. I enjoyed the techniques employed to reinforce the seriousness of the themes. Even the somewhat repetitive nature of the plot highlighted the relentlessness of racial abuse. – Rachel

Everybody talks about genocides around the world, but when the killing is slow and spread over a hundred years, no one notices.

The Trees delivered sucker-punch after sucker-punch leaving me feeling almost worn out with the relentlessness of violence that got close to slapstick at times. What started as a humourous observation of redneck America soon descended into mysterious deaths involving mutilation and gore. But why was the horror I was reading about sometimes comical and nearly always rollicking?

The short sharp interspersion of historical lynching was shocking and provided the context of retribution as a possible reason why so many people were being targeted and killed.

I think when reading a satirical novel there is a risk that the humour can distract the reader from the issue the author is endeavouring to highlight. This was not the case with The Trees – Percival’s Everett’s message is very clearly received. – Suzy


Published 2021
Greywolf Press
310 pages

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