Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines was first published in 1983. Reading this book brought to my mind the killing of Ted Fields and David Martin, two young black men who were walking with two of their white female friends after dark. Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer and white supremacist, was later convicted of this crime that happened in my home state of Utah.

Ernest J. Gaines tells a story that will make you squirm with uncomfortableness. He challenges our thoughts and beliefs. He puts down on paper, the deepest, darkest thoughts of people regarding race and prejudices. He doesn't paint people good or bad, but he allows the reader to determine what they believe. He has also joined my list of authors who don't disappoint me as a reader. I'll buy and read anything he writes.

My only complaint with this book was that I wish it was longer. I wanted more, more back story, more days, and more about the characters after the story ended.

This book gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of several people in a community - those who are white and those who are black.

The story begins with the part owner of a plantation sending a young black male to run get certain people. Candy Marshall, the white owner, confesses to the murder of a white male, Beau Boutan. Of course, no one believes her, and before the sheriff can get there, she has assembled a gathering of old men armed with the same caliber of gun that killed Boutan. All of them are willing to confess to Boutan's killing. All of them have reason to have killed him as he and his family did a lot of things to hurt them. Candy swears she killed Boutan because she is trying to protect the people who work her plantation, one of them even helped raise her. If a black person goes to jail for killing a white man, he will be executed.

Gaines builds tension well in the story that is told from many different points of view. Each chapter begins with the name of who is telling the story. Each narrator enriches and deepens the story. The truths in this story still holds true today. We are each a part of our own personal history and that of those who came before us. In order to understand one another, we much also understand the history of those around us. This book makes me want to be a kinder person and to do more to reach out to understand and help people.

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We are in need of Spanish books at this time, especially board books. 

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

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