Shall We Gather at the River

E. Reid Gilbert

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 224 Price: (paperback) $19.99 ISBN: 9781465348050 Reviewed: February, 2012 Author Website: Visit »

In the opening pages of E. Reid Gilbert’s quiet, captivating novel, we’re introduced to Jimmy Sue Bennett, a farmer in the mountains of Virginia. He has recently died, and his great-nephew, the book’s narrator, is visiting a rural cemetery to oversee the placement of his grave marker.

“He had chosen this particular gravesite for reasons unbeknownst to anybody but himself, only I had kind of figured out what it was all about it,” the narrator says. “It was right next to the metal fence which separated the white folks’ cemetery from that of the ‘coloreds.’”

Jimmy Sue’s story goes back to 1875 in Virginia, when the Hiltons, a family of black sharecroppers, arrive to farm land near the Bennetts. “The Hiltons were somewhat of a mystery there in the mountains where few colored folks could be found,” Gilbert writes. As the families get to know each other, Jimmy Sue finds himself falling for Madeleen Hilton, a quiet girl with a beautiful voice and a habit of calling him “White Boy.” Their story of forbidden love provides the framework for this story

Gilbert’s strength in storytelling lies in the simplicity of his words, which paint a vivid picture of white-black relations in post-Civil War times. As he weaves the tale of blooming love, he also tells the story of a simpler time, with skilfull descriptions that take readers to the swimming hole and the forest; to tobacco harvests and church gatherings (“the sounds of pot-lids being lifted, mixed with the clanking of silverware against porcelain and tin plates and the pouring of gurgling lemonade into glasses…”)

Shall We Gather at the River is a compelling story that gently guides the reader to its inevitable ending.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Tucson, Arizona
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