Gathering of Waters and Emmett Till

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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.

About R.T. Smith

recent-meR. T. Smith has edited Shenandoah since 1995 and serves as Writer-in-Residence at Washington & Lee. His forthcoming books are Doves in Flight: 13 Fictions and Summoning Shades: New Poems, both due in 2017.


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One Response to Gathering of Waters and Emmett Till

  1. Tim McAleenan says:

    I look forward to reading this work. Often, it seems that by now, it’s difficult to come up with original ideas in writing that have not been done before. But the concept of a town being a narrator sounds exciting and original. I’m curious to see whether the town is biased one way or another–will it be an omniscient narrator, or just one commenting on the passing parade, so to speak? This sounds like a good read.

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