Hattie Plain is a fascinating woman, and in A Witness Tree: The Story of Hattie Plain, Peter Tyner has put together a profound history of her life. The story is told through the notes and letters, as well as articles collected over her lifetime, revealing a life of amazing strength and courage, beginning at the age of 13. The beginning of Hattie’s reminiscing is as a young girl at her first job writing essays for life at the newspaper in her hometown, working for Mr. Davis.
What Peter Tyner does so well is build a story from bits and parts of the writings and clipping of Hattie’s past, building on the joys and pains, and the unforgiving approach society had to people of color. The heartache and pain resonate with a fierceness that pulls you in. The novel brings to light the issues of the day.
We follow the murders and mysteries of a time in history that included Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. We relive the memories of the musical stylists of a time when black music was coming to the fore. Tyner weaves Hattie’s life through all the highlights and lowlights of the era, and finds a way to incorporate her life, making this an amazing and interesting journey.
I found myself tearing up as I read some of the stories and was horrified by the homes and lives destroyed during the era. This was a fast-paced, extremely interesting story of historical significance.
I would recommend this story for a discussion group. It has great range and histories, names that resonate with the times and a character that exemplifies the very worst and best in all of us. This is a wonderful book and a must-have for your library. If you enjoy history, you will enjoy the effortless weaving of historical names and places as well as the actual events of the day, making this a true reading adventure.