THE HANGING TREE by Michael Phillip Cash


A Novella
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A curse brings death and ruin to several generations of a family in Cash’s (Stillwell, 2013, etc.) supernatural novella.

The story opens in present-day Oyster Bay, N.Y., with teenagers Arielle and Chad, two teens enjoying a midsummer night under a large oak tree. Chad wants more from Arielle than she’s willing to give; annoyed with her hesitation, he refuses to give her a ride home, and the two angrily wait to meet Chad’s delinquent friend. However, it turns out that the pair is not alone: Watching them from the spreading oak tree is a cast of ghostly characters whose ill fates are about to intersect with the teenage lovers’. This fast-paced novella, easily read in one sitting, spins a tale of woe dating back to 1649, when a woman wrongly accused of witchcraft curses the reverend who sentenced her to death. As the years roll by, a number of his descendants fall victim to the curse and find themselves inhabitants of the hanging tree. The story’s greatest strengths are its pacing and structure: Each short chapter develops an individual victim’s back story piece by piece, leaving readers in constant, eager anticipation, although some threads are more successful than others. Goody Bennett, the curse’s originator, is the best-developed character, strong and unapologetic as she stands up against prejudice and injustice. Arthur and Martin, who die in a horrific car crash in 1916, are also intriguing figures whose witty banter provides the story with some comic relief. Others, however, such as Muriel, a girl from the 19th century, feel like afterthoughts, while Arielle and Chad, who play a central role in the story’s resolution, lack the necessary depth their pivotal roles demand. Spelling errors (including the repeated misspelling of a key character’s name) also prove distracting in the brief novella format.

A creepy tale with potential that ultimately lacks enough punch.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1492274513
Page count: 90pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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