The Hanging Tree is a short dramatic paranormal novella by Michael Phillip Cash that revolves around a curse handed down through generations of family members. The story is smoothly written as it transitions between different time periods, but lacks any real intrigue.
The story begins with two teenagers, Arielle and Chad, relaxing underneath an old tree. Chad desires to add Arielle to his list of conquests, yet Arielle is conflicted. Her mother leaving to live a life of lavish irresponsibility has altered her life irreparably, and she can’t decide if her attraction to Chad is solely an act of rebellion.
The story then switches to mid-1600, where Goody Bennett, a quiet, misunderstood woman who is accused and punished for witchcraft, stands against the injustices of her Puritanical community. Goody Bennett is both the protagonist and antagonist of the story. It is her ability to intuit the motivations of those around her that uncovers the evil residing in her community’s preacher and ultimately sees her hanging alongside her granddaughter for witchcraft.
The story progresses through a small cast of characters who have succumbed to the curse. The reader meets Martin and Arthur, a homosexual couple who struggled to fit into the social elite, and their untimely death in a car wreck. Cash also briefly develops Goody Bennett’s granddaughter, Claire, and a young rape victim known as the Gibson girl. Each of these characters illuminates the rage and injustice of Goody Bennett’s treatment during her own time period.
Between Goody Bennett’s tribulations and the unraveling of her curse’s victims there’s the present that revolves around Arielle and Chad. Both teens are descendants of the preacher who killed Goody Bennett, and they present an opportunity for Cash to neatly summarize the themes of injustice and redemption.
Overall, the novella is fast-paced and well written. The characters are relatable, yet it feels like something is missing. It could be that so much of the 74 pages is spent developing Goody Bennett as the originator of injustice and revenge in the story; or it may be that Arielle and Chad are too quickly developed. Cash quickly fills in very necessary blanks just before the climax happens so that the whole thing will make sense, and that leaves the reader wishing the story was just a little bit longer.
After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Red Feather Productions. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.