The Tree of Forgetfulness
Readers may avoid certain genres, eras, or styles; there are so many novels written, and we over-discriminate. But don’t let the subject, a lynching in South Carolina, or the multiple points of view keep you from reading this deeply human and beautifully crafted mystery.
1943. Businessman Howard Aimar is soon to die “peacefully at home,” as they will say. To a degree unsuspected by his family, however, Aimar is still lucid in his memory and, as he silently relives events that took place 16 years ago, he is very far from peace.
These facts are undisputed. In 1927, a mob of outraged citizens shot and killed three members of a black family accused of murdering a white sheriff. One had been tried and acquitted. Two were pulled from jail. Seventeen guns were fired in a pine clearing outside of town. No one – and everyone – in this small town knew who pulled the triggers. Aimar’s contemporaries each had a piece of the puzzle. Did anyone have them all?
Libba Aimar didn’t know where her husband was that night. The Aimars’ longtime maid, Minnie, and her son, Zeke, sat on hard evidence. The New York reporter had his suspicions. Locals straddled an uncomfortable fence. Who was guilty and of what? More important now is: what allowed a lynching to take place? Dozens of men drove out to the clearing; others saw the line of cars and went to bed. From recollections of shame, guilt, and inadequacy, we extrapolate the failings of an entire community.
Sometimes a novel teaches us more about history than the history books. We may not be able to explain it, but we will understand. The Tree of Forgetfulness is highly recommended.