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The Widow and the Tree

By: Sonny Brewer
Reviewed by; Kevin Wilder
MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 2009
$27.95, Hardcover

In 2005, while I was working at Jonathan Benton Bookseller in Mountain Brook, Alabama, an up-and-coming writer from Fairhope named Sonny Brewer allowed our store to host a reading. Over a period of several months, copies of his first novel The Poet of Tolstoy Park continued flying off the shelves, until after a while it seemed as if every Birmingham book-clubber, shop regular, and casual reader had requested a copy.

Four years have passed since then, and Brewer has already delivered a fourth book, The Widow and the Tree. Rarely do storytellers like Brewer emerge, capable of presenting tender narratives possessing tremendous power. Each page of the story is filled with carefully-crafted sentences, making up concise chapters that sweep like elegant poetry.

For half a millennium, one colossal tree has “stood watch over coastal Alabama’s mysterious backwater bays and slow-running rivers.” Standing in the vicinity of one family’s woodland, the tree has been watched by the family’s current descendent. Night after night this lovely middle-aged widow hears the faint sounds of trespassers — those entranced with local lore and superstitions who have come to witness the Ghosthead Oak for themselves. When a neighboring war veteran with a rocky past and a reporter-turned-deputy and game warden find themselves entangled, the widow resolves that the tree’s ownership and destiny should be left up to her alone.

The majestic tree of Brewer’s story is a presence all its own. Often the story’s natural imagery of growth and destruction turns philosophical. Loosely based on actual events, this novel reaffirms Brewer’s much-deserved place in the grand tradition of Southern writers. It also provides a bit of commentary regarding the so-called revitalization of public landmarks. Dec 2009

Kevin Wilder lives in Birmingham and coauthors the serialized young adult blog-novel Some New Trend.

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