The Choiring of the Trees

Written by Donald Harington
Review by Dana Cohlmeyer

The Choiring of the Trees, set in 1914 in an Ozark town, opens at sundown as Nail Chism is being led to the electric chair for the brutal rape of a thirteen-year-old girl. As he’s plotting a final terrifying act, he notices two things—the trees seem to be singing to him, and the woman named Miss Monday is sketching his last moments. Narrated by Latha, the victim’s best friend, the saga of Viridis Monday, an artist who’s traveled the world and come back home, and Chism, a shepherd, unfolds. Monday works for Nail’s freedom, believing him innocent.

Be warned that the first fifty pages of Harington’s latest work to be set in the fictitious town of Stay More, Arkansas, are rather off-putting: there is much talk of eleven-year-olds having sex, five-year-olds only being virgins if they can outrun their brothers, and other charming things. However, once I got past those bits, the book took off and was absolutely brilliant! Harington’s depiction of his native Arkansas almost makes you feel as though you can see the smoke rising some illicit still far off in the distance. The characters are well fleshed-out and honestly presented. Despite the somewhat stomach-churning descriptions of the brutality the prisoners suffered at the hands of guards, the story is so well crafted that it’s impossible to not turn the page. This book is recommended for the heartwarming quality of the depth of feeling between Viridis and Nail and the lengths to which they are willing to go in order to be together.