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The Trees (Everett novel)

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The Trees
First edition (US)
AuthorPercival Everett
PublisherGraywolf Press (US)
Influx Press (UK)
Publication date
Preceded byTelephone 
Followed byDr. No 

The Trees is a 2021 novel by American author Percival Everett, published by Graywolf Press.

Set predominantly in the small town of Money, Mississippi, the novel follows a series of murders that seem to follow identical patterns.



In Money, Mississippi, a white man called Junior Junior is found dead in his own home with the body of an unknown Black man beside him. When the bodies are taken to the morgue, it is soon discovered that the body of the unknown Black man has disappeared. The body is found again in the home of Junior Junior's cousin, Wheat, who has also been murdered. Shortly after, the body of the Black man disappears again.

Two Black detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Ed Morgan and Jim Davis, are sent to Money to investigate the situation. Ed and Jim go to a local bar frequented by the Black community of Money where they discover that both Junior and Wheat are relatives of Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who accused the teenage Emmett Till of making sexual advances at her leading to his lynching and death. Ed and Jim believe that the disappearing body bears a striking resemblance to Emmett Till's battered body.

More bodies begin to pile up around the country. Each features one or more white men who have been castrated with the bodies of Black or Asian men beside them. Ed and Jim are able to find the identity of the Black man found at the original crime scene. They trace it to a company that sells bodies for research. They also begin to suspect Gertrude Penstock, a white-passing waitress they met in Money, and her 105 year old great-grandmother Mama Z are involved in the original murders.

Unbeknown to Ed and Jim, this is revealed to be true as Gertrude and a group of like-minded Black individuals had orchestrated the deaths of Wheat and Junior Junior as retaliation for their father's part in murdering Emmett Till. However they are baffled by the other murders.

Reports of the other murders reveal that large groups of Black and Asian men who appear impervious to bullets, have started duplicating the murders orchestrated by Mama Z and Gertrude.

Writing and development


To write the novel, Everett researched lynching in the United States.[1] For this research, Everett purchased books dealing with elements of lynching, enough to incidentally develop a "lynching section in [his] library".[1] Everett attributes the humor in his novels, including in The Trees, to the influence of Mark Twain.[2][3]

Reception and accolades




The novel received mostly favorable reviews.[4] Mary F. Corey, in a positive review published by the Los Angeles Review of Books, wrote that the novel included a "Twainian level of wit and meanness".[5] Joyce Carol Oates called it "[r]eally profound writing...about subjects of great tragic and political significance.[6] Carole V. Bell, in a review published by NPR, also praised the novel, writing that the book is a "combination of whodunnit, horror, humor and razor blade sharp insight".[7]

Awards and honors

Awards for The Trees
Year Award Result Ref.
2022 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction Winner [8]
Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction Winner [9]
Booker Prize Shortlist [10][11][12]
Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Winner [13][14]


  1. ^ a b Yeh, James (December 1, 2021). "An Interview with Percival Everett". Believer Magazine. Archived from the original on August 1, 2022. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  2. ^ Qian, Jianan (June 9, 2022). "Art Makes Us Better: The Millions Interviews Percival Everett". The Millions. Archived from the original on July 28, 2022. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  3. ^ Simon, Scott (September 18, 2021). "Percival Everett's Novel 'The Trees' Parses Through Race's Part In A Southern Murder". NPR.org. Archived from the original on July 28, 2022. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  4. ^ "The Trees". Book Marks. Literary Hub. Archived from the original on October 2, 2022. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  5. ^ Corey, Mary F. (February 3, 2022). "Los Angeles Review of Books". Archived from the original on July 28, 2022. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  6. ^ Oates, Joyce Carol (September 25, 2022). "Joyce Carol Oates Doesn't Prefer Blondes". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on September 26, 2022. Retrieved September 26, 2022.
  7. ^ Bell, Carole V. (September 22, 2021). "Percival Everett's Latest Grounds Racial Allegory In History, Horror And Blood". NPR. Archived from the original on August 4, 2022. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  8. ^ "The Trees". Archived from the original on September 20, 2022. Retrieved September 16, 2022.
  9. ^ "Awards: Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse, Toronto Book Winners". Shelf Awareness. November 23, 2022. Archived from the original on February 3, 2023. Retrieved April 30, 2024.
  10. ^ Bari, Shahidha (September 6, 2022). "'I've no idea how we'll pick a winner': the challenge of a spectacular Booker shortlist". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 6, 2022. Retrieved September 6, 2022.
  11. ^ Bayley, Sian (July 26, 2022). "Booker Prize longlist dominated by indies as judges pick youngest and oldest ever nominees". The Bookseller. Archived from the original on July 26, 2022. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  12. ^ Segal, Corinne (July 26, 2022). "Here's the 2022 Booker Prize longlist". Literary Hub. Archived from the original on July 27, 2022. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  13. ^ "Shara McCallum wins the 2022 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry". Peepal Tree Press. October 28, 2022. Archived from the original on March 31, 2023. Retrieved April 29, 2024.
  14. ^ "The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award". African American Literature Book Club. Archived from the original on March 31, 2023. Retrieved April 29, 2024.