two men near car and building

You know how novels are sometimes split into sections? Part I, part II, part III? Or maybe the sections aren’t numbered, but have titles? And each section’s number or title appears on a page of its own?

I just read a novel like that. Flipping through the opening pages, past the copyright page, the dedication page, the epigraph page, and the third of the three title pages, you come to a page with just one big word on it: RISE.

It is, apparently, a section title.

The strange thing is, this section, apparently part I, lasts for the entire book! There are no subsequent sections.

And when you arrive at the end of the book, you finally understand why there was just one section, and why it is called RISE.

This is just one of many strange—and what I mean by this is creative—features of the 2021 novel The Trees, by Percival Everett.

Have you seen the movie “American Fiction,” playing in theaters now? Fabulous movie—highly recommended. Thought provoking and very, very funny. Everett wrote the book on which this hit movie was based. The book is called Erasure, and it was published over 20 years ago. Interesting that the themes of the story have, if anything, become even more relevant with the passage of time. I haven’t read this one, but it’s on my list.

So, back to The Trees. What can I say? It’s a weird book. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, as well as punny in a cutesy way. This has the effect of softening the gruesomely horrific plotline into something of a farce. And yet, the main themes of the book remain quite serious.

One thing I love about literature is that characters can do bad things, and you can disagree with their actions, but still love them. This was a big part of the book for me.

Another thing I love about literature is the way you can follow threads through history, as more modern authors build on the great works of the past. The Trees reminds me of a novel I read in college, A Different Drummer, by William Melvin Kelley, published in 1962. A Different Drummer was likewise about Blacks rising up against injustice, en masse. The Trees thus stands firmly in the tradition of African-American literature, while also building upon it, making it new.

Speaking of the word RISE—the most important and powerful part of this novel comes on the very last page. The ending makes the book. Truly, you have to read this book, because I want you to come to its jaw-dropping conclusion.

It’s not what you think.

I promise, it’s something else.

Do you dream of rising?