The Tree of Forgetfulness: A Novel

Overview

In The Tree of Forgetfulness, writer Pam Durban, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award, continues her exploration of southern history and memory. This mesmerizing and disquieting novel recovers the largely untold story of a brutal Jim Crow?era triple lynching in Aiken County, South Carolina. Through the interweaving of several characters' voices, Durban produces a complex narrative in which each section reveals a different facet of the event. The Tree of Forgetfulness resurrects a troubled past and explores the ...

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The Tree of Forgetfulness: A Novel

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Overview

In The Tree of Forgetfulness, writer Pam Durban, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award, continues her exploration of southern history and memory. This mesmerizing and disquieting novel recovers the largely untold story of a brutal Jim Crow—era triple lynching in Aiken County, South Carolina. Through the interweaving of several characters' voices, Durban produces a complex narrative in which each section reveals a different facet of the event. The Tree of Forgetfulness resurrects a troubled past and explores the individual and collective loyalties that led a community to choose silence over justice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A real-life Southern hate crime passed off as vigilante justice fuels this hard-hitting but lyrical novel from Durban (So Far Back). Beginning during WWII, the novel reaches back to 1926 Aiken County, South Carolina, as three young African-Americans, siblings Bessie and Dempsey Long and their cousin, Albert, are convicted after a white sheriff is shot dead during a Prohibition-era whiskey raid on their property. After several appeals, the case is overturned, only for a lynch mob to kidnap and murder all three of them. Durban follows this fictionalized retelling of the historical incident by showing simultaneous attempts by an uneasy town to bury the deplorable event and by New York City reporter Curtis N.R. Barrett to unearth it. Crisp and honeyed prose underpins this honest, well-wrought study of a community's shared guilt. The novel compassionately examines issues of complicity by employing multiple perspectives, moving between 1926 and 1943 to cast the Longs' deaths as both recent tragedy and decades-old history. Durban gently implores readers to draw their own conclusions in this nuanced portrayal of morality, law, and race in the South. Agent: McIntosh & Otis. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Pam Durban:

"Pam Durban renders her characters and their world with such rich and beautiful complexity that the only fair response to someone asking what it's about is to press the book into their hands and insist they read it." — Tommy Hays, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A graceful, poignant, and ultimately satisfying story." — Charles Sermon, The State

"Haunting and irresistible... Durban has written a splendid, engrossing, and, above all, deeply thoughtful novel that will linger in readers' minds long after they close its cover." — Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Oxford American

"Durban's carefully managed cast of characters — antebellum aristocrats, slave families and their descendants in the modern South — are drawn with subtle grace, producing a narrative of compelling intensity." — Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807149720
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/12/2012
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Pam Durban is the author of All Set About with Fever Trees, The Laughing Place, and So Far Back. Her stories and essays have been widely published, and her short story "Soon" was included in The Best American Short Stories of the Century. She is Doris Betts Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina.

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