Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash

The new book, The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash is a fictional- historical horror piece.  This 73 page "novella" is significantly shorter than a traditional novel yet a bit longer than a short story, and can be completed in one sitting.  Incorporating  historical details of the mid-evil days of witchcraft, the author transports the reader into the past to the days of the witch hunts, witch trials and hangings. With authentic styled dialect, and  traditional characters reflecting the rigid and superstitious social norms of a past era, the reader is transported from the modern setting to the past. For example, the authentic details of midwifery and painful, complicated childbirth will leave readers wanting  even more historic details.  History enthusiasts as well as readers who thirst for authenticity, will appreciate the different time periods represented by the various spirits as well as the scene changes that transport the reader into different times.

  Modern day teenager, Arielle finds her fate mixed up with the mysterious, eclectic mix of spirits that inhabit a cursed tree.  In an ironic twist, the churchgoing folk and preacher are deemed as intolerant, superstitious, murderous  hypocrites, while the old witch is portrayed as wise, enlightened and misunderstood.  The townspeople turn against the old midwife, after the death of a mother during childbirth.  From that point on, every local mishap is blamed on the witch and witchcraft.  With her dying words, the righteous old witch releases a curse on the reverend, "I accuse thee... Not only that, I curse thee, thy children and thy grandchildren, and their children after that... Until you right this wrong, until you clear thy soul, thee and thine shall be cursed". Page 40. In a role reversal, where the religious and pagan community shift roles,  a witch takes on the role of moral authority as she meets justice against a man of the clergy. These spirits act as a protector for the teenaged girl. In turn, there is a redemptive element of mercy when the curse is lifted - showing even the most virulent and hateful of sins can be forgiven.  "A Harmond caused the curse, and a Harmond released the curse.... She risked her own life to save someone dear to me", the spirit of the witch proclaims as she finally finds peace in releasing the hatred and desire for revenge which held her as well as her targets prisoner. Page 74.  As an additional authentic touch, the "Author's Note" in the back of the book provides details about the "Hanging Tree" local legends and where to find the infamous tree. 

Although the backdrop of the story may seem stereotypical with two young teens on a date that has gone sour- a rebellious teenaged girl from a broken family, avoiding the advances of an aggressive boyfriend, the supernatural tale which transports the reader back in time is unique and unexpected.  As a blogger I receive this book for the purpose of writing this review.

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