On the library floor, I sat with a stack of books, books from my to-read list and books that called to me from the shelves. So many books, so little time. Waiting at home already are other stacks of books. Some half-read. Some just too academic or not captivating in some way for my current mood. I also have the shiny bauble syndrome and was pulled away by other books, other topics, other stories, other storytellers.
So I decided to work down this pile, before leaving the library and I flipped open each book to sample the story because summaries are always great. Awards and accolades are nice, but whether a book resonates with us, in this moment, is very much dependent on where we are, in this moment. Opening a book at “random” – nothing is ever random, is it? – I started reading Gathering of Waters. Usually it is somewhere in the middle of a book I find myself but with this one, it was the opening passages and it was in the first ones in the first lines that called me in.
I am Money. Money Mississippi.
I have had many selves and have been many things.
The beautiful and captivating opening passages to the novel Gathering of Waters by Bernice L McFadden. The Choctaw named this place Mississippi, which means many gatherings of waters and in this novel, the writer has gathered and woven the many threads of the lives and the stories leading up to and away from the tragedy that has made Money Mississippi infamous, the murder of Emmett Till. Also a pivotal event in the American Civil Rights movement. Despite all the spoken and unspoken dark history and the heartbreak, Gathering of Waters is a magical novel.That was enough and if I were not headed back to feed my dogs, I would have just stayed on that library floor, delving deeper into this book.
I can be a fast reader, a slow reader. I remember one time, I sat down with a Stephen King book in a cozy corner in the old house. I was alone. My dog was hanging out somewhere. It was a bright day. Light streamed through the big picture windows and the French doors. The next thing I knew, as I looked up from finishing the last (disappointing) words, I was sitting in a very quiet, very dark house, safely inside a pool of light from the reading lamp I had reflexively turned on. Completely freaked out, and still coming out of the fantasy world.
It was the same with Gathering of Waters which I read through in one go – minus dog duties, etc. The end, however, was anything but disappointing. I was taken back to a different time – or perhaps not so different – to see the world through different eyes and from a different coloured skin, and essentially from the viewpoint of the town Money in Mississippi.
I absolutely and irrevocably loved this book. This book spoke to me, even though it was painful to read at times. The summary of the book in the jacket turned out to be really good. It is a love story. It is a history lesson. It is a story of loss, pain, being frozen, humanity’s dark side, hatred…but this novel was written by a storyteller. There are writers and there are storytellers. Bernice McFadden is the latter. She weaves elements of the story in so subtly, so cleverly, so beautifully. This is not a black story. This is a story of how we are the same, more than we are different. We hurt the same. We love the same. We suffer, struggle, and triumph the same.
For our interview with Bernice L McFadden, check out the Spring 2016 Issue of It’s All Well + Good Magazine. We will also be reading her newest, The Book of Harlan, due May 3 2016.
side note | It is amazing what happens when you just follow the pull, with no expectation, with only the intention to feel more fully embodied. Bernice found and shared our little video of the opening passages (video above) and these were her words – “Wow…It’s All Well and Good Magazine put the opening passages from my novel: Gathering of Waters – to music…accompanied by some pretty awe-inspiring images. It’s beautiful and it has left me…full.” Her words left me full. To hear that the writer of those words felt her words loved and respected!