Cover image for Gathering of waters
Title:
Gathering of waters
ISBN:
9781617750328
Publication Information:
New York : Akashic Books, c2012.
Physical Description:
252 p. ; 22 cm.
Summary:
The story is narrated by the town of Money, Mississippi. Tass Hilson and Emmett Till were young and in love when Emmett was murdered in 1955. Anxious to escape the town, Tass marries Maximillian May and relocates to Detroit. Forty years later, after the death of her husband, Tass returns to Money and fanstasy takes flesh when Emmett Till's spirit is finally released from the waters of the Tallahatchie River and the two lovers are reunited.--Publisher's description.
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Selected as a Go On Girl! Book Pick

"100 Notable Books of 2012" --New York Times
"50 Best Books of 2012" --Washington Post

"McFadden works a kind of miracle -- not only do [her characters] retain their appealing humanity; their story eclipses the bonds of history to offer continuous surprises . . . Beautiful and evocative, Gathering of Waters brings three generations to life . . . The real power of the narrative lies in the richness and complexity of the characters. While they inhabit these pages they live, and they do so gloriously and messily and magically, so that we are at last sorry to see them go, and we sit with those small moments we had with them and worry over them, enchanted, until they become something like our own memories, dimmed by time, but alive with the ghosts of the past, and burning with spirits."
-- New York Times Book Review

"Read it aloud. Hire a chorus to chant it to you and anyone else interested in hearing about civil rights and uncivil desires, about the dark heat of hate, about the force of forgiveness."
-- Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered , NPR

"McFadden combines events of Biblical proportions--from flooding to resurrection--with history to create a cautionary, redemptive tale that spans the early twentieth century to the start of Hurricane Katrina. She compellingly invites readers to consider the distinctions between 'truth or fantasy' . . . In McFadden's boldly spun yarn, consequences extend across time and place. This is an arresting historical portrait of Southern life with reimagined outcomes, suggesting that hope in the enduring power of memory can offer healing where justice does not suffice."
-- Publishers Weekly

"The rich text is shaped by the African American storytelling tradition and layered with significant American histories. Recalling the woven spirituality of Toni Morrison's Beloved, this work will appeal to readers of mystic literature."
-- Library Journal

"McFadden makes powerful use of imagery in this fantastical novel of ever-flowing waters and troubled spirits."
-- Booklist

"In this fierce reimagining, the actual town of Money, MS narrates the story about the ghost of Emmett Till and his from-the-other-side reunification with the girl he loved as a child in Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden."
-- Ebony Magazine

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 families.

Tass 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 Detroit.

Forty 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 .


Author Notes

Bernice L. McFadden is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels including the classic Sugar and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, selected as the debut title for the One Book, One Harlem program, and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of two fiction honor awards from the BCALA. Her sophomore novel, The Warmest December, was praised by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison as "searing and expertly imagined." McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Narrated by the town of Money, Mississippi, a place divided by race, McFadden's eighth novel (after Glorious) traces the influence of murdered prostitute Esther, whose soul inhabits some of the characters. Her seductions and destructive schemes indirectly lead to the birth of Tass, the fictional woman who would love Emmett "Bobo" Till, the teenager whose real-life 1955 murder helped fuel the Civil Rights movement. McFadden combines events of Biblical proportions-from flooding to resurrection-with history to create a cautionary, redemptive tale that spans the early twentieth century to the start of Hurricane Katrina. She compellingly invites readers to consider the distinctions between "truth or fantasy." Like other novels that allow victims of crime to wander between the afterlife and the waking world in search of resolution, McFadden's leaves some plot elements open-ended, contributing to a sense of mysterious forces at work. Evil exists as its own rationale, as do Esther's motivations. In McFadden's boldly spun yarn, consequences extend across time and place. This is an arresting historical portrait of Southern life with reimagined outcomes, suggesting that hope in the enduring power of memory can offer healing where justice does not suffice. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Money, Mississippi a town made infamous by the murder of teenager Emmett Till in 1955 is the narrator of this tale of a town drenched in troubled spirits and troubled waters. McFadden portrays the lives of the Hilson family, fleeing the race riots of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the 1920s, for safety in Money. But they encounter an even greater threat in a spirit that drifts through them, destabilizing relationships between husbands and wives, mothers and children. She threads their lives through racial tumult and flooding into the 1950s, when young Tass Hilson meets a young boy visiting from Chicago and begins a budding romance just before his historic death. Traumatized by the violent death of her young love, Tass grows up, marries, and moves on to Detroit to raise a family, but she never forgets Emmett. When her husband dies, Tass gives in to the tug of memories and returns to Money, Mississippi, and the spirits that reside there. McFadden makes powerful use of imagery in this fantastical novel of ever-flowing waters and troubled spirits.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

NOVELISTS writing about traumatic historical moments face a particular challenge: how to bring the event to immediate, visceral life without overpowering the characters or their experiences. In "Gathering of Waters," her eighth novel, Bernice L. McFadden recreates not just the Mississippi flood of 1927 (one of the most destructive ever in the United States) but also the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. It would be easy for her characters to recede in the glare of these events, but McFadden works a kind of miracle - not only do they retain their appealing humanity; their story eclipses the bonds of history to offer continuous surprises. "Gathering of Waters" opens in the early 20th century in Oklahoma, with a girl named Doll possessed by the spirit of a dead woman. But after an unsuccessful exorcism and a decision by Doll's mother to put her up for adoption, the story shifts to Money, Miss., where Doll grows up under the influence of the bitter, vengeful spirit that inhabits her. She steals, she has sex with near strangers and she eventually gives birth to a daughter who comes to despise her. After the flood of 1927, the novel's attentions jump to that daughter, Hemmingway, just until her own daughter, Tass, falls in love with Emmett Till during the summer he will die. Then the story follows Tass, who marries and moves to Detroit with Emmett's spirit at her heels. McFadden makes some unconventional choices, but she pulls them off. The town of Money itself narrates the novel, providing a roving, close perspective and complementing the book's magic realism, its premise that matter is finite and spirit eternal. "For a time I lived as a beating heart, another life found me swimming upstream toward a home nestled in my memory," Money says. "Once I was a language that died." In this world, spirit lives in an object until its host dies or grows useless, then it moves on. The diction Money uses to describe spirit is beautiful and evocative, in contrast to the spare, urgent voice elsewhere, as in this description of the flood: "At the church, someone looked down and saw that water was rising up through the seams of the floorboards. Another member spied it seeping in from beneath the door. The choir continued to sing." "Gathering of Waters" isn't long, but it brings three generations urgently to life. Doll is irascible and voracious, untrustworthy and sometimes surprisingly vulnerable, while Hemmingway is her polar opposite: respectable, upstanding and aloof, even with her own daughter. Tass is the novel's most tender character. Although she marries and has many children, she remains naïve and compassionate, traits that draw Emmett's spirit to her in death as in life. Indeed, McFadden's conception of Emmett is very human - here, the boy sheds the pall of his death, the history of slavery and segregation and cultures and continents colliding that coalesced at the moment of his murder and burned and blazed and could not be contained afterward, and instead, assumes the identity of the adolescent he might have been: funny, sensitive, rakish and, in the end, devoted. This is where the real power of the narrative lies: not in the Mississippi River flooding 23,000 square 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. While they inhabit these pages they live, and they do so gloriously and messily and magically, so that we are at last sorry to see them go, and we sit with those small moments we had with them and worry over them, enchanted, until they become something like our own memories, dimmed by time, but alive with the ghosts of the past, and burning with spirits. Jesmyn Ward's most recent novel, "Salvage the Bones," won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction.


Kirkus Review

Glorious, 2010, etc.) seeks to honor the memory of Emmett Till, victim of one of America's most horrific lynchings. The details can still make you sick to your stomach. Fourteen-year-old Emmett, an African-American from Chicago, visited family in 1955 Mississippi; after the briefest of exchanges with a white woman, he was murdered by her relatives, who mutilated his body. His story has been told many times in novels and documentaries. Curiously, McFadden devotes fewer than 40 pages to the murder and its judicial aftermath. The long first section covers the years 1921 to 1940. The narrator (the voice of Money, the hamlet where Till was lynched) focuses on a black pastor, August, and his wife Doll, whose body has been possessed since her birth by the spirit of an evil whore called Esther. While McFadden writes convincingly of the body-soul relationship, she loses control of her family saga amidst melodramatic flourishes. Just two things are important. The first is that Doll's granddaughter Tass will fall for Emmett. The second is that a child known as J.W. will die in a flood but return to life possessed by Esther, Doll having drowned. He will grow up to be J.W. Milam, the instigator of the lynching and a certified monster with a lust to kill, thanks to Esther. So it's not his fault! McFadden's bizarre interpretation cheapens Till's story. After recounting the fateful incident at the grocery store and, touchingly, Emmett's innocent flirtation with Tass, she hurries through the murder itself, carried out by J.W. and his weak-willed brother-in-law. A long, banal concluding section follows Tass in later life; Emmett's spirit has attached itself to her protectively. And that wicked old Esther? On the 50th anniversary of the lynching, she returnsas Katrina. A magical-realist treatment of Till's story can succeed (see Lewis Nordan's 1993 Wolf Whistle), but not at this level of distortion.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

NAACP Image Award and Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist McFadden (Glorious) here reimagines the summer Emmett Till spent in Mississippi in 1955 and the events leading up to his murder. The story chronicles the young love between Emmett and Tass Hilton, which finally transcends death. Having left Mississippi for Detroit after Emmett dies, Tass returns 40 years later as a widow to reawaken his spirit, trapped in the dank waters of the Tallahatchie River. This story is deeply affecting, but the novel's greatest triumph is the salacious tale of Tass's grandmother Doll Hilton, as the spirit of this scorned woman refuses to rest, often returning angry and more vindictive than in her previous life: "They beat the goodness and the sweetness out of her. They beat her into the streets, into back alleys, down into the dirt, into the gutter, onto her knees." The rich text is shaped by the African American storytelling tradition and layered with significant American histories. VERDICT Recalling the woven spirituality of Toni Morrison's Beloved, this work will appeal to readers of African American and mystic literature.-Ashanti White, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.