Historical, Review

In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree by Michael A. McLellan


This turned out to be a fascinating story. It starts with Henry and Eliza, newly freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War. The beginning of their freedom has a very big downside in that they have no idea how to manage it. They were released like little puppies with no idea how to save themselves. Being slaves, they were used to hardship and injustice, and once they are free they have to rely on gossip and a lot of hope in their desire to acquire land in the northern U.S. They have heard there are places they can live and work without the terror of the South.

Several times I closed this book and decided I couldn’t review it. The hatred in people’s hearts is easily admitted, but this story lays it bare. Post-war South was a seething pool of hatred. Henry and Eliza don’t get far before they are captured, even though they carry their papers of freedom. Henry is hung and Eliza is dragged away by a group of ragged men with evil in their hearts. Luck or not, Henry’s hanging rope is rotted through and he falls to the ground, where he abandons Eliza to escape his captors.

Some years later, Henry is working for the military as a scout in Indian territory. Here he meets up with people who have grown tired of prejudice and the soulless men who look only to themselves. They have grown tired of men who talk falsely to the Indians and then use their arrogance to become rich while others starve, while they ferment war with the Indians and send soldiers to kill their babies. Because of this, Henry finds people who at least are interested in calling him by name and, at the same time of crisis, support his desire to do something for the Indians that he has come to care so much for.

John and Clara are interesting characters. John is a military man forced to serve in Indian country, because he loves Clara. Her father, being a controlling and selfish man, thinks he can manipulate two people who are in love. As John is forced to go on a foray to an undefended Indian village where soldiers kill every woman, child, and man, he is sickened and actually walks away from the military he though he would spend his life serving. Clara also comes to her own recognition that there have been people in her life that she has loved, but refrained from admitting to herself or them for fear of social ostracism.

Once the people in this story are forced into company with each other, they realize people are similar no matter who or what they are. They all had many of the same worries and the same desires. They could not like each other as a whole population, but on a face-to-face basis they found how to accept, care, and love each other.

I highly recommend this book. It is an eye-opener into the American past and a reminder of what we should hope for today. Without saying, this book points out the fact that we have a long way to go.

The rating:

  • Genre & general reading age – Historical for adults and older teens.
  • Level of sexuality – Very low-key.
  • Is there graphic language – Quite a bit.
  • Did I cry? No, but I was saddened at times.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? This is a standalone.
  • Level of character development – This book is so well-done, I never had a sense of the characters lacking.

I am very happy to give Mr. McLellan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

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