Reviews for Gathering of Waters

Booklist Reviews 2012 January #1
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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #2
This well-intentioned but seriously flawed eighth novel from McFadden (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 returns…as 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 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 December #1

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

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