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Gathering of Waters, by Bernice McFadden.

July 21, 2013

Gathering of  Waters, by Bernice McFadden.  New York: Akashic Books, 2012.


A compelling African American novel mixing fantasy and historical realities.

Evil exists, as the African Americans living in Money, Mississippi, know all too well.  But so do goodness and love, bringing life joy as well as pain, as  Bernice McFadden shows readers in Gathering of the Waters.

When a prostitute dies, she transfers her evil spirit to Doll, a young girl.  Her mother gives the possessed child to the minister’s family to be raised.  When the family moves to Misssissippi and Doll grows up, she spreads havoc throughout the community, which McFadden traces in the first half of the book.  When Doll dies in the terrible flooding of the Mississippi River in 1927, her evil spirit moves into a white boy who becomes the instigator of the murder of Emmett Till  in 1955.  Till was an innocent black teenager from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi when white men beat and killed him for allegedly whistling at a white woman.   His horrific death and the failure to punish his murderers revealed the violence of white supremacy in the American south to the world and helped pave the way for the civil rights movement.  Having been caught up this week in the failure to convict a  man for his proven killing of another black boy, I wasn’t sure I was ready to revisit the Till murder.  I am glad I did.  McFadden’s narrative helped me remember that good things happen as well as tragedies.

McFadden is an accomplished African American author, having published seven other novels.  Her touch is quick and light.  Her words and her plot catch readers up in a riveting story, one that is hard to put down.  Without using dialect, she provides echoes of traditional African American storytelling in this blend of magic and reality.  Hers is a story of healing that can occur even though evil is real and never eradicated.  In the end she has given us a beautiful book, a real pleasure to read.

I am grateful to Akashic Press for introducing me to McFadden and sending me a copy of this fine book to review.

Highly recommended for all readers, especially those interested in the racial history of the United States and in African American writing.  And to all who enjoy a good book.

I am grateful for Akashic Books for providing me with a review copy of this fine book.

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