Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
Nathaniel, a horse-riding traveler in eighteenth century Europe, emerges from a vast forest to see a field of golden wheat. At the centre of the field is a large tree and, at its base, a man. Strangely, the man appears to be talking to the tree.
At the village inn, Nathaniel asks the barman about the man and tree. The barman refuses to tell him anything, so Nathaniel decides to visit the man himself. The following morning he rides back to the field, where he notices the man is still there, talking to the tree.
He introduces himself to the man, whose name is Adam. When questioned about why he sits beside the tree, talking to it, Adam reveals a story so amazing, it borders on being unbelievable. Nathaniel, too, has a similar tale, the conclusion of which is just as bizarre and shocking as Adam’s.
Man and Tree is a short, and quite frankly bizarre little tale about two couples who had the misfortune to run a foul of a witch. I think had the author tried for more of a fantasy feel, instead of locating the story in 18th century Europe and going for an adult fairy tale, Man and Tale might have come off a little better on the whole. As it is, its hard to explain the complete lack any awareness of the laws and societal awareness of homosexuality of those times. Its completely ignored or made little reference to. Surprising when both couples meet and jump enthusiastically into sex and relationships. Then things go spectacularly wrong for all four of them.
I like the imagery the author provides when that happens. Nice, very nice indeed. But Mansfield leaves other holes in his narrative. Some things makes sense, others, not so much, especially when it comes to said witch. Tell us more about that witch and her background. And that ending? Wrapped up way too easily and without the requisite answers to some of the questions the author himself raised about the village and the villagers.
All in all? Man and Tree had some nice elements to it but more aspects to it that raised questions in my mind. It sort of felt like an outline to a larger story than a completed short tale.
Cover art is ok but doesn’t really speak to any of the elements in the story.
Kindle Edition, 47 pages
Published September 10th 2016 by JMS Books LLC