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Book Review: Gathering of Waters

BOOK REVIEW: Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden 252pp

How I came to read this book
I became familiar with Bernice McFadden a number of years ago. My sister gave me a book called, “Loving Donovan” and I fell in love with that book. I actually read it twice and I recommend it often. My issue, sometimes, with authors is that I’ll fall in love with the introductory read which leads to an expectation that lingers. I worry about disappointment. Not that the author is a one hit wonder but that the next piece will be so different that it won’t hold my attention. Remember, I’m already in love. So, fast forward to Gathering of Waters. I won a copy of the book months ago. I cannot recall exactly when, either late 2011 or early 2012, and was elated that I actually won a contest AND the prize was a real life book! Anyhow, I’d been babysitting the book. That’s my phrase for when a book I know I NEED to read sits in my to be read (TBR) pile way too long. Life, work, my own writing, and plain exhaustion were reasons (excuses) it remained in the TBR pile. I even carried it around in my bag for months, as if I would consume it through osmosis, without reading past the inside sleeve of the cover. One reason that kept me away from diving into the book was the belief that this was a book ABOUT Emmitt Till and I had to emotionally prepare myself for that ride. What happened to him enrages me and I had to prepare to properly funnel that rage. I was so wrong and I was upset with myself for waiting so long to read this wonderful story.

The review
The story was told from the viewpoint of a town, Money, Mississippi. That’s different. A very interesting choice of storytelling. Gathering of Waters is a love story and how that love came to be. It’s about souls weaving in and out of this world and the next. There were so many rich characters in this book that I will definitely be reading this book again.

Money said,”Listen, if you choose to believe nothing else that transpires here, believe this: your body does not have a soul; your soul has a body, and souls never, ever die.” This line stayed with me throughout the entire book and well after I finished it.

I laughed, cried, became angered, sad, excited, confused, scared, elated, and appalled at different points throughout this novel. Money brought me in and I stayed for a while. I was worried about this being a heavy read but it was not. It flowed as light as a newly released soul. The part of the story where Emmitt entered showed him as a kid. Just a kid doing kid things. Playing games, swimming, kissing a girl for the first time, getting butterflies in his stomach for her. McFadden weaved Emmitt and his attackers into the story so seamlessly that she kept the rage just on the edge of control. It took me a day and a half to read this book. A personal record. I could not put it down and only did so out of necessity: sleep and bathroom breaks.

As a novice writer, I’ve read articles about reading as a writer. This novel was the first I’ve read in almost a year so of course I attempted to read as a writer while enjoying the read for pleasure. Needless to mention, I have to continue to practice at this skill but I did notice a few things with Ms. McFadden’s writing. She is very concise. All of the articles on writing and the craft books that I have read and/or skimmed have stressed the importance of being concise. McFadden introduced a host of rich, lively characters, most of whom could have had a novel all their own, and did it so matter-of-factly yet still keeping the reader enthralled. She made each word count, each sentence moved the story forward. I wanted to know more about each character and their lives. What happened to love of Cole Payne’s life? What was her life like? What happened to Doll’s mother and brother? And Ann Hilson? And what about Ester? I wanted more stories about Esther’s scandals but McFadden gave enough about her for the reader to understand her power. McFadden told how the lives of these and other characters’ lives intertwined and lead up to that bittersweet summer of 1955 and beyond. The book spanned several generations so the town as the storyteller wasn’t so far fetched. Money was the only witness to it all.

This was an awesome read that I would definitely recommend. A few of the tenants in my building were talking about starting a book club. I am going to suggest this novel as the first selection.

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