BY: MICHAEL INFINITO
When South Carolina Plantation owner Samuel Worthington liberates his slaves, he offers them some land in exchange for their continued service. His best worker, Jeffrey, accepts the deal and begins building a life for his freed family. But upon Samuel’s death, everything changes. His son, Jake, alters the agreement, setting in motion a destructive pendulum that swings relentlessly for generations to come. Inhabited by ghosts of a dead rice plantation, the fertile land serves as a battleground in the war between greedy, ruthless men, and the spirits of its rightful owners. ‘You’s on my land.’
Two plantation families, both torn apart by injustice and bigotry, branch out away from their roots and struggle to make it into the early twentieth century. Through World War I, Prohibition, and the modernization of America, the South Carolina land and its ghosts remain common ground in a prolonged chess match between the two clans. Unfortunately, neither family can ever fully prosper unless all the stray pieces find their rightful place and balance is restored, but justice proves elusive in the shadow of America’s darkest social blemish.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Hanging Tree by Michael Infinito, the Worthington family in South Carolina, frees its slaves at the end of the Civil War. The patriarch, Sam Worthington, gives his slaves parcels of land in payment for their service while slaves. One slave, Jeffrey, accepts and stays to work on the plantation. But when Sam dies, his son Jake takes over the plantation and kicks the ex-slaves off their land, hanging Jeffrey and his wife and murdering all but one of their children, setting off a chain of events that destroys the plantation owner’s family and leaving behind a legacy of death and violence. The book follows both the Worthington family and the family of Jeffrey’s one son, Nat—who escaped the carnage in South Carolina and fled north—through many generations, haunted by bigotry, injustice, revenge, and the outraged ghosts for whom there has been no justice, only tragedy.
The story is heart-breaking, detailing the awful persecution the Blacks suffered at the hand of White men both north and south, and the injustice that no amount of retribution can ever repay.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS. The Hanging Tree by Michael Infinito is not an easy book to read. It chronicles the story of Sam Worthington’s family from the end of the Civil War when the slaves were freed, to the early 1920s. Sam himself was a good man, and he not only freed his slaves but he paid them for their services as slaves, offering them small pieces of land on his plantation. Only a few of them accept, but one who does is Jeffery. He builds a small cabin on his land next to a huge maple tree. But the maple tree becomes his hanging tree once Sam dies and his bigoted and narrowed-minded son Jake takes over. Jake wants the land back and when Jeffrey refuses, he and his family are murdered, with the exception of Nat, who manages to flee. He makes it out of the state and the story follows his family through years, along with the Worthingtons. But Jakes sins are visited on the heads of his children and his son-in-law, who builds an inn on Jeffrey’s land that is haunted by all who die in the two families.
Infinito handles the subject with sensitivity and compassion, creating a chilling, spine-tingling thriller that’s hard to put down.