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Gathering of Waters is a deeply engrossing tale narrated by the town of Money Mississippi a site both significant and infamous in our collective story as a nation Money is personified in this haunting story which chronicles its troubled history following the arrival of the Hilson and Bryant familiesTass Hilson and Emmett Till were young and in love when Emmett was brutally murdered in 1955 Anxious to escape the town Tass marries Maximillian May and relocates to DetroitForty years later after the death of her husband Tass returns to Money and fantasy takes flesh when Emmett Till's spirit is finally released from the dank dark waters of the Tallahatchie River The two lovers are reunited bringing the story to an enchanting and profound conclusion Gathering of Waters mines the truth about Money Mississippi as well as the town's families and threads their history over decades The bare bones realism both disturbing and riveting combined with a magical realm in which ghosts have the final say is reminiscent of Toni Morrison's Beloved


10 thoughts on “Gathering of Waters

  1. says:

    Since I finished this book it has haunted meAs I move through my day images phrases characters tensions joys and sorrows from Gathering of Waters sneak up on me when I least expect them This is probably only fitting as McFadden presents in her novel a multi generational story told by the town of Money Mississippi yes by the town that seamlessly combines beautifully clear and elegantly simple descriptions of everyday life among black families living in Money with incandescently beautiful examinations of the spiritual elements of these families’ lives Throughout McFadden focuses on the human spirit love and hatred good and evil and the ways in which souls can transcend the ravages of racism hatred fear and evilFrom the time you open the cover and take in the novel’s opening lines you know you are reading a special book“I am Money Money Mississippi“I have had many selves and have been many things My beginning was not a conception but the result of a growing stretching and expanding which took place over thousands of years “I have been figments of imaginations shadows and sudden movements seen out of the corner of your eye I have been dewdrops falling stars silence flowers and snails “For a time I lived as a beating heart another life found me swimming upstream toward a home nestled in my memory Once I was a language that died I have been sunlight snowdrifts and sweet babies’ breath But today however for you and for this story I am Money Money Mississippi” 12McFadden introduces significant key themes in these opening paragraphs A central concept in the novel is animism the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and the material world that souls are contained in plants rocks water as well as in humans and that souls can pass from generation to generation in different hosts This belief system provides a thematic framework for the novel generating not only tensions and conflicts across generations but also strong ties to places to people to spirits moving among us There’s a true sense of people being part of a place of an integrity and wholeness lying beneath the appearance that human existence is fleeting This sense of connection is profound throughout the novel McFadden also develops Gathering of Waters with two key historical anchors The Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and the murder of Emmett Till in the summer of 1955 Both events were devastating events and both are tied to racism That connection may seem clearer in the case of Emmett Till who was brutally murdered at the age of 14 by white racists who alleged that Emmett had whistled at a white woman Carolyn Bryant at Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money Mississippi Emmett’s body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River and later discovered leading to a sensational trial at which the defendants were acuitted In spite of this miscarriage of justice the extensive media coverage of the event brought the serious conseuences of racism to the attention of the American public The murder was one of many events leading to the development of the Civil Rights Movement The Great Flood of 1927 is another catastrophic event in US history that reveals the racism at the heart of American society The flood disproportionately harmed the black communities living on the Mississippi delta as they were not protected by government flood control policies which were developed with big banks and industrial powers in minds Levees themselves were first built by slaves and later by black convicts and work gangs Black work gangs also were forced at gunpoint to reinforce levees as the waters rose during the floods of 1927 In addition local authorities along the Mississippi River had ensured that black communities were segregated into less desirable locations including areas most likely to flood Once the floods started local authorities concentrated their resources on rescuing white families leaving blacks to fend for themselves Refugee camps were segregated and the ones designated for blacks were poorly provisioned and rife with disease For details please see Rising Tide The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed AmericaMcFadden works these historical events into the fabric of her story providing clear historical context for readers The power in the novel though stems just as much if not from McFadden’s beautiful descriptions of everyday life for the Hilson family as it does from dramatic historical events This is a story about the complex relationships and tensions passing from generation to generation heightened by the brutal ineuities of a racist society At the same time though I was left with a strong sense of the salvation to be found in love which also passes over time and space McFadden’s incandescent prose underscores the wonder of first love “To Tass Emmett was everywhere and present in all things He was all over her mind pressed into the seams between the floorboards glowing amidst the stars and there in the sweet swirl of sugar milk and butter in her morning bowl of farina 156 We see the love of true friends outlasting time and distance We share in the concerned and sometimes exasperated affection of adult children for their mother And most dramatically in the novel’s climactic ending we are left with a moving and magical example of the transcendence and timelessness of loveThis is a beautifully written novel which embraces the magic of everyday life and celebrates the permanence of souls This is an important novel for the ways in which it provides a perspective on America’s difficult past while providing a way to understand past present and future not in abstract terms but in the most human terms possible This is a novel that I hope you read and hold close to you and pass on to others


  2. says:

    Dearest you cannot bury a soul Souls are light darkness and air Bernice L McFadden Gathering of WatersI love it when I read a page of a book and I instantly know I'm going to love it I've been in a sort of fiction reading slump and this book got me right out of it It's one of the most enjoyable books I've read all year hard to put into words how it touched me but it really didIt all starts in Money Mississippi with the death of a hooker Esther whose vindictive spirit inhabits a little girl and one of Emmett Till's murderers the bad eggs of the book I read this book in a few hours thoroughly engrossed in its intelligently woven together story lines that spanned generations It mixes together magical realism history and a love story so utterly well There was amazing dialogue and a story line that pulled at my heartstrings a lot especially the story of Emmett Till and his death that was dramatized in this book in such an I'm not sure how to put it honouring way? It makes so much sense to me to memorialize those people who are no longer here to tell their own stories as a way to always remember themEmmett Till's fictionalized love story was really sweet and a reminder me how an innocent life was lost and would never experience all of the things he should have all due to racist evilTo Tass Emmett was everywhere and present in all things He was all over her mind pressed into the seams between the floorboards glowing amidst the stars and there in the sweet swirl of sugar milk and butter in her morning bowl of farinaHistory is something that doesn't go away and I like how this book included the historical context because clearly things don't occur in a vacuum; everything is connected History has shaped the present and things don't just disappear without being dealt with; they permeate to the present The history of racism is responsible for a lot of present day woes The flood after Hurricane Katrina is mentioned in this book as is the Great Mississippi floodWater was a motif throughout the book it seemed like water both reveals the evil but also gets rid of itOne of the most shocking things in this book for me were Till's murderers; reading up on how they benefitted financially from the murder reminds me of another person who shall remain unnamed And the repercussion of their awful act is that it affected the entire country JW and Roy didn't just snatch the childhood away from Emmett; they stole it from every single black child in MississippiI'd definitely recommend this book not only for the wit great storytelling but also the beautiful writingAn excerpt from Audre Lorde's poem Afterimages I inherited Jackson MississippiFor my majority it gave me Emmett Tillhis 15 years puffed out like bruiseson plump boy cheekshis only Mississippi summerwhistling a 21 gun salute to Dixieas a white girl passed him in the streetand he was baptized my son foreverin the midnight waters of the Pearl His broken body is the afterimage of my 21st yearwhen I walked through a northern summermy eyes avertedfrom each corner's photographiesnewspapers protest posters magazinesPolice Story Confidential Truethe avid insistence of detailpretending insight or informationthe length of gash across the dead boy's loinshis grieving mother's lamentationthe severed lips how many burnshis gouged out eyessewed shut upon the screaming coverslouder than lifeall overthe veiled warning the secret relishof a black child's mutilated bodyfingered by street corner eyesbruise upon livid bruiseand wherever I looked that summerI learned to be at home with children's bloodwith savored violencewith pictures of black broken fleshused crumpled and discardedlying amid the sidewalk refuselike a raped woman's face


  3. says:

    I worried that there would be no one to take J California Cooper's place I thought Bernice McFadden might be the one when I read Glorious After reading Gathering of Waters I'm sure of itI've often said that reading a J California Cooper book is like sitting on the porch listening to your grandmother tell you a story Using lush words and phrases that make you long for those days McFadden's latest will leave you breathless from start to end Once you start Gathering of Waters you won't want to put it down until you've finished itWarning When I read and write about really good books the words I'm looking for don't always come out right So even if you can't feel it while reading this review know that I was gushing over the greatness of this book while writing itThrough narration by the town of Money Mississippi the reader is taken on a journey that explains the evil spirit that inflicted Roy Bryant one of the men responsible for the murder of Emmett Till Surely one would have to be evil to harm an innocent child the way the Bryant and his accomplices did right?We're first introduced to the spirit which belonged to the town's recently deceased whore early on when it comes back in the form of a little girl When that child's mother can no longer control the monster that her daughter has become she sends her to live with a preacher's family where her destructive ways reach far and wide Eventually the spirit finds its way to another innocent child this one a white boy brought back from the dead who would eventually become the Roy Bryant who murdered Emmett TillWeaving history with fiction with surrealism left me absolutely fascinated with the way the author tied the stories of each person affected by this evil spirit together and then went a step further and tied it into water Water is used often in literature to symbolize life transformation chaos or a cleansing In Gathering of Waters water is present at each milestone Doll's transition Roy's re birth Emmett's transition Emmett's rebirth of sorts and Tass' transition The culmination of the last two events brings forth one of the most chaotic events of present time Waterwho would have thought it could wreak such havoc


  4. says:

    Gathering of Waters Bernice L McFadden's Embrace of the Seen and Unseen Bernice McFadden I am Money Money MississippiListen 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 dieIt is unusual that I continue to be so haunted by a novel that I take days before I attempt to review it But I dare say many a reader may find themselves under the same spell so artfully cast by Bernice L McFaddenGathering of Waters takes its title from the Native American name for Mississippi many gathering of waters McFadden reminds us that the Native Americans driven from their home and the Africans brought to the State by white men as slaves both believed in animism the idea that souls inhabit all objects Money itself possesses a soul that follows three generations of its citizens from the 1920s into the Twenty first CenturyGood and evil are palpable forces that inhabit the souls of those people McFadden swirls through a history of violent and turbulent events beginning with the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 It is there we meet August Hilson a minister his family and a young girl Doll possessed by the spirit of Esther a whore whose throat was cut while plying her tradeDoll's mother abandons her when she fails to exorcise Esther's spirit from her daughter's body She gives her to August Hilson to raise As Doll enters adolescence Esther surfaces to seduce August His wife divorces him He marries Dolly who bears him two children Paris and HemmingwayThe Hilsons become homeless as a result of the Tulsa riots During two days of violence the Greenville District known as the Black Wall Street of America was burned to the ground Over three hundred Blacks were murdered June 6 7 1921 Tulsa OklahomaAugust is summoned to Money Mississippi to pastor a church on Nigger Row It is their salvation However August is horrified to discover a bite mark on Doll's upper thigh when her nightgown creeps up while she sleeps Doll possessed by Esther has taken not only a black lover but a white lover as well Cole Payne a grocer who welcomes both black and white customersIn 1927 Mississippi was struck by the great flood On the bank of the Tallahatchie River Money was caught in its path August is swept away as he delivers his Good Friday sermon Doll is not at church She is in the arms of Cole Payne As the gathering of waters rushes over Money Doll is pulled under the water and Esther needs a new home After the floodIn the aftermath of the flood two young men are rescuing survivors and pulling the dead from the river They pull the body of a young boy JW Milam from the water At the funeral home as the mortician prepares to embalm the boy JW is resurrected Esther lives onHemmingway has a daughter Tass When Tass asks who her father is Hemmingway tells her she is her mother and father I leave it to the reader to discover Tass's paternityMoney watches the Hilsons and the Bryants through the years It is the summer of 1955 A young man from Chicago Emmett Till has come to Money to visit his grandparents It's love at first sight for Tass and Emmett But we know how that story ends Emmett Till at age 14Emmett Till let out that infamous wolf whistle McFadden tells us that Carolyn Bryant heard the whistle and asked Emmett to repeat it JW the half brother of her husband Roy Bryant witnesses the whistle He's a mean drunk and confronts Carolyn and Roy Nothing? A nigger whistling at you is nothing? Emmett's fate is sealed Where Emmett WhistledMoney simply recounts the kidnapping and killing of Emmett on August 24 1955 the not guilty verdict at the trial of Milam and Bryant and the audacity of Milam to brag of having committed the murder in an interview with Look Magazine We learn the bitter taste of double jeopardy and rage over the injustice Roy Bryant and JW MilamTass marries but always remembers Emmett She moves to Detroit with her husband who works in the automobile industry Following her husband's death she returns to Money to one final gathering of waters It is 2005 Hurricane Katrina is churning in the Gulf of MexicoMcFadden draws her cautionary tale to a stunning conclusion that still brings a lump to my throat That may well be your reaction tooJesmyn Ward winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Salvage the Bones wrote in her New York Times review of Gathering of Waters McFadden works a kind of miracle — not only do they retain their appealing humanity; their story eclipses the bonds of history to offer continuous surprisesThis is where the real power of the narrative lies not in the Mississippi River flooding 23000 suare miles killing some 250 people in April 1927 and not in the awful brutal death of a boy who later became a symbol of the civil rights movement but in the richness and complexity of the characters of the women of the Hilson family and the men Emmett among them who love them Washing the Wounds February 10 2012 Sunday Book Review New York TimesMcFadden beautifully reminds us of this Whether you have embraced this tale as truth or fantasy; I hope you will take something away from having read it I pray that you will become sensitive to world around you the seen and unseen As you go about your lives keep in mind that an evil act can ruin generations and gestures of love and kindness will survive and thrive foreverChoose wisely dearest That's good advice to remember long long after reading McFadden's haunting work Gathering of Waters has earned every bit of praise it has garnered Read it and pass it on


  5. says:

    “In her new novel Gathering of Waters Bernice McFadden brings her own special vision to the unfortunate story of Emmett Till and his murder in Money Mississippi This moving and magical novel which traces the generations leading up to and away from that horrible night in 1955 drew me in immediately and swept me along through its richly imagined world I couldn’t stop reading caught up as I was in that enticing place between truth and fantasy the here and now and the what was the living and the dead the ugliness and the beauty the hatred and the love What a rich chorus of voices Bernice McFadden has fashioned from this place called Money” Lee Martin author of Break the Skin and The Bright ForeverGathering of Waters is a deeply engrossing tale narrated by the town of Money Mississippi—a site both significant and infamous in our collective story as a nation Money is personified in this haunting story which chronicles its troubled history following the arrival of the Hilson and Bryant familiesTass Hilson and Emmett Till were young and in love when Emmett was brutally murdered in 1955 Anxious to escape the town Tass marries Maximillian May and relocates to DetroitForty years later after the death of her husband Tass returns to Money and fantasy takes flesh when Emmett Till's spirit is finally released from the dank dark waters of the Tallahatchie River The two lovers are reunited bringing the story to an enchanting and profound conclusionGathering of Waters mines the truth about Money Mississippi as well as the Bryant and Hilson families and threads their history over decades The bare bones realism—both disturbing and riveting—combined with a magical realm in which ghosts have the final say is reminiscent of Toni Morrison's Beloved


  6. says:

    After reading this book it will always stay on my mind I never read a book where the town was the narratorit was phenomenal It took me threw the 1900s up until 2005 It focus on the multi generations of one family Before they even got to Emmett's Story I was emotional drained Then when his part came upI was crying so hardthat I had to put the book down so I could calm down The historical parts was The 1900 flood Emmett story and Katrina It also got me thinking about my souland the soul of others when the body dies the Spirit lives on good or bad It's not heavy on religion but it brings to light the what my parents told me and some see this book as magically but I believe


  7. says:

    I grew up in the Jim Crow South While Petersburg Virginia was light years away from Money Mississippi there were also lynchings in Virginia Black Mothers of sons in Petersburg and my mother had four sons had reason to fear for their sons Petersburg was an Army town as well as a college town with an HBCU which my four brothers attended There was enough progressive activity in Petersburg that we might have been allowed some uppityness Still there were lynchingsI was old enough to remember Emmett Till News about injustice in the black community traveled slowly Jet Magazine was hand delivered by the same young carriers who brought the black newspapers like the Journal Guide The news was months old by the time we saw the horrific photos of Emmett Tills battered corpseI have followed Bernice McFadden's work for years and her blogs for many months When I read her early blurbs about this book which would involve Emmett Till I feared it would dredge up the old sadness and rage But it didn'tThis is a magical book which weaves a tale told by the town of Money Mississippi through generations starting in 1900 McFadden's prose is always so stunningly smooth and packed with a powerful punch The story reminds me of 2 Peter 38 But do not forget this one thing dear friends With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day And that God will make it right by and by God and the river


  8. says:

    I was thoroughly disappointing with this book I am in no way a book writer but I am definitely an avid reader The plot summary of this book is misrepresenting I borrowed it from the library after reading the indie cover of course it was in a display announcing 'Best reads in 2012' I have known about the poor teen Emmett Till who was murdered by white men in the 50's but I did not know anything about his character or his personality I thought this book would shed a light on that aspect of Emmet Till especially if the book was that of a love story between him and a character by the name of Tass I did not realize I had to read 156 pages into the story to finally have the author bring the doomed teen into it at chapter 22and only briefly and that is how you as a reader are drawn into this book you wonder when in the heck are you going to read about the main characters The author did not do a good job keeping facts that she wrote in check I found myself going 'huh?' a couple timesThis book was one of the few that I had to stop reading and look back a couple pages because of inconsistency in the writing which threw me off For example1The book starts out in the early 1900's One of the families that the author starts describing moved in to the town of Money MS in 1921 The Hilson family have a daughter 'Hemmingway' Not a strange name at first I thought it was attributed to the famed writer Until I found out his writing didn't become popular until later The Hilson son's name was 'Paris' perhaps the author herself has a fondness to the famed writer to choose names so tied closely together Though; from everything I have ever read from this time period and the diverse cultures within the states I would believe these names were not at all popular for black southern families to pick at that time period2The reader is introduced to some sharecropper families the white family named Payne and the black family named Johnson As the author is giving a brief back story as how close these families were on page 56 the author states that Cole Payne's mother 'Catherine' became ill and could not nurse him so Sissy's Johnson's mother Ethel did the jobBut on page 71 'Barbara' is now Cole's mother matriarch of the Payne family Try as I might I was not able to find between those pages 'Catherine''s death mentioned3The somewhat main character Tass the reader finally introduced to in chapter 22even if the synopsis of the book makes it sound as if the whole book is about Tass Emmett Then the author writes how Emmett is murdered in August 1955TRUE FACT when the character Tass is 15 According to the book two years later she still misses Emmett a man named Maximilian is sweet on her Her mother Hemmingway wants her to marry him because of his stable job owning a home The storyline goes on to describe how Tass waits until she graduates clearly read in the book 'in a year' to marry Max One month after graduation she marries him As a reader I naturally assumed this month then would be June or July of 1958 Once they do marry Max moves Tass to Detroit where he works The author then says in May 1957 there is a late snow and Tass sees snow for the first time BUT as a reader you are taken backwards in a time line progression4One of the greatest US's natural disasters and subseuent worst show of American government taking care of it's people during Hurricane Katrina it's aftermath the author turns it into a horrible tie in to the underlying wicked spirit of a dead whore Don't even get me started on THAT part of story sub plot


  9. says:

    The release of a new book from Bernice has become an event It's like eagerly waiting for the new music from your favorite artist or the premiere of the latest Spike Lee joint For me this is the rarefied air she has entered I said in a previous review I can't understand for the life of me why Bernice is not perennially on best sellers list I guess it is incumbent on those of us who love her writing love the way she turns a phrase and her very vibrant and imaginative storytelling to sing her praises to everyone we meetIn Gathering of Waters the writing is once again extraordinary It was uite impressive the way she incorporated the Emmitt Till murder into the story It was both brave delicate and necessary You can't write a book with Money MS as a narrator and not deal with the most horrific event in that towns' history She handles it deftly and respectfully You can really feel the characters in this novel and everything is handled in such a way that the historical story she tells is uite believable The connecting of past to present and how one impacts the other is on clear display here That is an important lesson for people to learn and Bernice is teaching it well through a piece of exceptional fictionI hope everyone reads this book and makes Bernice McFadden a household name Make sure you have time set aside when you start this book because you will not want to put it down I rarely read books twice but this might be that rare occasion


  10. says:

    I have enjoyed this author from Loving Donovan This Bitter Earth The Warmest December and Sugar to her newest Gathering Of WatersThe other reviews give you the setting and characters plot and such but her bringing together of words in this story from the beginning 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 to the endWhether you have embraced this tale as truth or fantasy I hope you will take something away from having read it I pray that you will become sensitive to the world around you the seen and unseen draws you in and doesn't release you until there is nothing else thereOnce I saw that this fabulous writer was coming to my area wwwpgcmlsinfoI immediately reuested this book I took the afternoon the day after receiving it to sit with her listen to her and enjoy her again I do feel she is a gifted writer who can tell a tell and place you there in jowl dropping awe with each turn of a page To me an excellent read a page turning short novel and enjoyment from Ms McFadden as always