I always get great suggestions from my local librarians. At the Takoma Neighborhood Branch of the Washington, D.C. Public Library, the librarians are smart, funny, and kind. This one-hundred year-old library seems to get amazing librarians. A few weeks ago, they pointed me in the direction of two novels by Ravi Howard: Driving the King and Like Trees, Walking. I’m glad they did.
Driving the King tells the story of a man who stops an attacker from murdering Nat “King” Cole. As Cole is performing in Montgomery, Alabama, this attacker jumps on stage with a pipe and the main character leaps at him, saving Cole. He gets prison for his trouble and on his release ten years later, Cole hires him as a driver. We see the profound changes this man goes through as a victim of the South’s “justice” system. We also see a beautiful account of human resilience. This is a well-told story of the American South, of how humans deal with suffering, especially unjust suffering.
Like Trees, Walking is the story of two brothers. One in high school, the other is one year out of high school. The older brother witnesses the lynched body of a friend and is never the same again. The younger brother narrates the story and we see inside a family and inside a city trying to come to grips with racial violence most thought long gone. Howard creates characters here who are believable and honestly human.
Both novels offered me that rare reading experience of wanting more. I had to deliberately slow myself down to make the stories last longer.
Howard’s writing style is unadorned and easy. His descriptions offer the reader a simple and clean sense of place. His dialogue, both external and internal, is authentic and human.
I’m delighted to have discovered these two excellent novels. If you love stories in which you are drawn to care deeply about the characters, Ravi Howard’s novels are for you. I look forward to more excellent writing from this author.