No one should ever forget the horrors suffered during the years when so many were denied their Civil Rights, but Black History Month is always a poignant time to renew our efforts for equality. Bernice L. McFadden’s novel Gathering of Waters (Akashic Books, 2012; 252 pages) revisits Money, Mississippi’s African American community and its white counterpart for several generations leading up to the murder of Emmett Till, and though the author reopens that file and brings the horrors back to life, this strange and splendid novel does much more.
You may be reluctant, at first, to engage with a novel whose narrator is the town of Money, but the conceit grows on you in this erotic and fast-moving story which bears many of the marks of magical realism. Lust, betrayal, flood, hypocrisy, viciousness, the spirit world and lyrical beauty all play their roles, while McFadden exercises her eloquence, terseness and precise instinct for conjuring characters who invite empathy, even when they are far from angels.
While rescuing memories of Emmett Till’s sorrowful story, the author refuses to let the light of hope go out and reminds you that, no matter how firmly you may grasp the facts of a story, there is a mystery as allusive of smoke surrounding all that transpires or is dreamed.
I found this book on Amazon and hope it’s readily available in stores, as well. I’m ready to read more of McFadden right away.
- Shenandoah has been has featured on the list of 100 Essential Sites for Voracious Readers published on MastersinEnglish.org.
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