Monday, March 19, 2007

1981

I haven't really been taking all this time reading The Thirteenth Tale; I interrupted it to read The Nazi Officer's Wife and Like Trees, Walking.

Like Trees, Walking: Ravi Howard. I'd never paid much attention to Mobile, AL, until March of 1981, the year Michael Donald was lynched. In my naivete, I thought this country had come a long way in terms of race relations and that those things didn't happen anymore. The Donald murder forced me to reassess my thinking. I continued to follow the story until one of the murderers was executed in 1997. I've thought a lot about the obvious impact of this horrific crime on the community but not a whole lot about how it affected individuals. Howard's novel is about the part of the story I never really considered. It's the story of two brothers, told through the eyes of a high school student, Roy. The older brother, Paul, finds Donald's body, and Roy, who works for his father in the mortuary business, helps with the funeral. Howard's deliberate slow pacing is effective in establishing the book's tone, and the specter of the Atlanta child killings hangs quietly in the background, unobtrusive but clearly having an impact on the mindset of the characters. Sometimes, however, Howard's overemphasis on detail reminds you that this is a first novel. It's as if he's been taught that to properly evoke a time and place you need to get the details exactly right, so the Mobile-Press is never just referred to as "the newspaper"; it's always the Mobile-Press. It's also clear that this novel was extended from a short story; there are scenes that don't carry the story along and could have been left out -- a lot of funerals I didn't really need to attend. Those are nitpicky criticisms, however; overall, Like Trees, Walking is a moving story about race, murder, and what happens to individuals when justice is a long time coming.

6 comments:

nutmeg said...

Just had a look at the entry for Michael Donald in Wikipedia. What a shocking case and in 1981? What a topic to tackle for a first book!

What did you think of Nazi Officer's Wife?

Katya said...

It was a shocking case. Ravi Howard is from Montgomery so even 3 hours away, there was probably some effect up there.

I liked The Nazi Officer's Wife -- it was interesting, but I thought Edith was, especially in the beginning, shallow and quite whiny. I didn't like her much at all.

nutmeg said...

Yes. You've hit the nail on the head about Edith! And the other thing that didn't seem quite right was what she "thought" was the fate of her mum. Each time it was mentioned she seemed to summarily brush the topic away. And if I remember correctly, she didn't seem to "wonder" too much about her exact fate when she never returned after the war was over?

Katya said...

No, she didn't. She didn't mention going to the camps and looking for her or people who knew her or anything like that -- which to me is just weird.

sari said...

This has nothing to do with your post but I've tagged you for a small music meme.

Katya said...

Okay, sari -- you know I like music.