Saturday, March 10, 2012


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Gathering of Waters, Bernice McFadden, Akashic Books, 2012, 252 pp

"Both the Native man and the African believed in animism, which is the idea that souls inhabit all objects, living things, and even phenomena. When objects are destroyed and bodies perish, the souls flit off in search of a new home."

When I read this quote in the early pages of Gathering of Waters, I was prepared to love the book. That did not quite happen, though I mostly enjoyed reading it. The trouble for me was an unevenness of intensity in the story, because the subject matter is intense, violent, and provocative.

The narrator is a place: Money, Mississippi is a small town in the delta, first built by real estate developers in 1900 and always racially divided. Through the generations of its residents, a single soul returns over and over. She is wanton, without conscience, as well as destructive. In 1955 comes the real incident culminating in the hanging of Emmett Till. The final pages are set during Hurricane Katrina.

I felt there were too many times when the narrative slowed or flattened out into small day by day details. The writing suffered from a subdued emotional tone.

Other than that, the premise and construction are not quite like anything else I've read. Both races have admirable and despicable characters. I could feel the Toni Morrison influence and tribute throughout. Because of these qualities and because she has a moral vision I found intriguing, I will read more Bernice McFadden.

(Gathering of Waters is available in hardcover or paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it at your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.)

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