Like Trees, Walking by Ravi Howard is the author’s first novel, expanded from a prize-winning short story he wrote while in college. Set in Mobile, Alabama, the novel is a fictional exploration of the repercussions of a real crime — the lynching of a 19-year-old African American teenager, Michael Donald, in 1981 — and the lack of effort by law enforcement officials to bring the guilty white men — members of the Ku Klux Klan — to justice.The narrator, Roy, is the younger of two brothers. In 1981, he’s in his last year of high school, preparing to go off to New Orleans for college the following year and trying to figure out how to tell his father that he doesn’t want to take over the family’s funeral home business, when his older brother, Paul, finds the dead body of his friend Michael hanging from a tree. Michael Donald was chosen at random and lynched on a street where known Klansmen lived. The whole African-American community is affected and mourns with Michael’s family. The last lynching in Mobile had been over sixty years before, a horrifying crime that belonged in the past, but here it had happened — in 1981 — to one of their own. Paul becomes obsessed by the fact that the known criminals go about freely while Michael is dead and buried. Roy looks on helplessly, wrestling with his lack of faith and his responsibility to his family and the larger community.
A finalist for the 2008 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, Like Trees, Walking is a short novel, quiet and reflective, that should start showing up on high school and college summer reading lists.
Check the Old Colony Library Network for availability of Like Trees, Walking.