Like Trees, Walking is the haunting debut novel from Alabama author Ravi Howard. This is a fictional tale based on the actual events of the 1981 lynching of a black man named Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama.
In the spring of 1981, a horrifying event shakes the city of Mobile. On his way home from work early one morning, Paul Deacon discovers his friend Michael beaten to death and hanging in a tree. The reader then experiences the aftermath of this event not only through Paul’s eyes but also those of his brother Roy, who actually narrates the story.
In truly poetic form, Ravi Howard has created a sadly beautiful story from a true story. Like Trees Walking has a different outlook on the South and is definitely a book worth reading.
- Additional Information
ISBN 0060529601 EAN 9780060529604 Publisher Harper Paperbacks Publish Date Jan 22, 2008 Copyright Date Jan 22, 2008 Binding Paperback
Customer Reviews 2 item(s)
- A book that adds more to our understanding...
Ravi Howard’s Like Trees Walking is the sort of book that compels you. I read it in a single afternoon. Not only is the imagery phenomenal, and the story riveting, it’s the sort of book you that immerses you in the injustice of its subject matter.
As a white woman, raised with all of the things I needed and many of the things I wanted, what strikes me most about this book are the parallels in my life to the life of the narrator. I, too, come from a hard-working upper middle class family. I, too, enjoyed the closeness of my neighbors. The setting was familiar to me, though I am neither male nor black. Ravi Howard brought home the HUMANNESS of the people involved. For that, I am grateful. It made this all too real book even MORE real, and it hammers home the importance of the subject matter.
Even for those of us who believe themselves tolerant, even for those of us who feel we can be sympathetic to the plights of those who have faced the horrible consequences of discrimination, this book adds more to our understanding, and it is –therefore--worth not only reading, but sharing.
- A Closer Look at Like Trees, Walking
I decided to read Like Trees, Walking upon learning that the author, Ravi Howard would be at The Alabama Writer's Symposium this year, which I will also be attending. I knew going in that this was no easy read, in fact because of the subject matter, I knew it was going to be very deep.
Brothers Paul and Roy Deacon are growing up in Mobile, Alabama in the 1980s. The Deacon Memorial Funeral Home has been in their family for years and Roy is being groomed in the family business. Paul has decided that he wants to take another path in life. Like Trees Walking is narrated by Roy, but Paul plays a very active role in the book.
Early one spring Saturday morning, Paul Deacon is on his way home from work. Normally on Saturdays. Paul would stop to buy doughnuts for his brother Roy and himself. But that fateful day in March would prove to be anything but normal. Paul Deacon finds the body of 19 year old Michael Donald, his and Roy's friend and classmate, badly beaten and hanging from a tree. Michael Donald, and Roy and Paul Deacon are all black.
A black man, lynched, in 1981. At a time in history where we should be way past racial inequality. And as if this isn’t bad enough, a burned cross is also found on the town courthouse lawn. This normally is attributed to the KKK; it definitely would have been in earlier days. But local authorities did not want to link the two events.
As the story moves forward, Roy and Paul not only take on the task of burying a close friend but also come to realize the impact that this incident has caused. They come to realize the harsh reality that although progress in racial equality, or any equal rights for that matter, had been made, a lot of people are still living in the past and there is still a lot of hatred and ugly in the world. Roy continues to work alongside his father in the funeral business, but Paul goes to work helping the lawyers who are building a case for Michael’s death. They want to prove that it was not an accident, that it was not just a random act of violence; they believe it was indeed a racial hate crime.
As the story unfolds, the reader follows the Deacons and their entire community in a fight for justice. Not just for Michael, but for the race as a whole.
Like Trees, Walking is a brilliantly written book. While most of the characters are fictional, the story of Michael Donald is a true one. Howard crafted the tale in such a way that he tells almost a new story while holding fast to the facts of the actual one.
One of the things that I loved about this book was the title and how it relates to the story. The title Like, Trees Walking is derived from a Bible story, found in the book of Mark, where Jesus heals a blind man. The man can see, but not clearly at first. He remarks that he can “see men, but they are like trees walking around”. Again, he could see……but NOT CLEARLY. And this is the point that Howard drives home in Like Trees, Walking. Even after the civil rights movement, there were still people who were not seeing clearly. People who just could not let go of the “old way” of life. People who could harbor such evil and hatred in their hearts, just because someone was different than them.
Another thing that stuck with me after reading this book, was the ending. I’m not going to say I loved it, but I didn’t hate it either. More specifically, I just didn’t see it coming. But after reading the book and taking everything that happened into account, it did make sense. It was just so heartbreaking; as was the majority of the book.
I was also impressed by the character development in this book, especially that of the Deacon brothers, and from different angles. Roy gains wisdom and insight, and while Paul appears to be making it along on the outside, on the inside he continued to struggle deeply with the loss of his friend and the effects of finding him. The relationships in Like Trees, Walking were also remarkably written. We feel the Deacons pain at losing their friend. We feel the sense of family obligation that Roy feels, to stay on and live out the family tradition at the funeral home. We also feel the sense of rebellion as well as purpose, that Paul feels when he rejects the family tradition, then sets out to fight for justice.
Like Trees, Walking is a wonderfully crafted, heart-wrenching, enlightening tale that will open your eyes. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys classic literature, and/or a fictional re-telling of actual events. I also recommend this to anyone who enjoys a deep book that will make you think.