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A Gathering of Old Men (1983)

by Ernest J. Gaines

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1,0552619,664 (4)92
Fiction. African American Fiction. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML:A powerful depiction of racial tensions arising over the death of a Cajun farmer at the hands of a black manâ??set on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970s.
The Village Voice called A Gathering of Old Men "the best-written novel on Southern race relations in over a decade… (more)

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Graced with seriousness, importance, humanity, and some snorting-through-my-nose humor. Wonderful. ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Mar 18, 2024 |
The writing style of this author was very strange. It's almost the level of high school or less. The dialogue between characters was immature and very repetitive, literally once there was a No. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes going on between two people. So, I would give this part about a 2-star.

On the other hand the storyline was awesome and would absolutely make a GREAT movie and gets at least a four star, so I gave an average 3-star rating overall. Now, imagine this:

The story takes place in 1970's Marshall, Louisiana, on the St. Charles Bayou when racism and racial tensions are still very high and the KKK was trying to still hang around and keep the blacks down and in their place. A black worker on the sugar cane plantation kills a longtime Cajun resident and descendant of the Marshall plantation, Beau Boutan, 35 years old, who thought he could still live by the slavery rules and insult and whip and even kill a black person who stood up for himself. So, Charlie killed him in self protection. Candy, Beau's cousin, who runs the sugarcane business operations and loves and fights for the rights of the blacks still living in huts on the plantation, tries to protect the blacks knowing the KKK klan will be coming by and wanting blood. She gathers all the old black men left around to come and bring their 12-gauge shotgun and a blank 5-shell to gather on the porch and around the house to protect Mathus, who she thought killed Beau, but it was really Charlie. But they had also secretly stashed some real rounds at the back of the house and everytime one went out to the outhouse, they grab a bullet or two. So, all the old men, around 15 of them, 80 years old and some even older are there and they all claim they were the one who shot Beau.

The sheriff shows up and is at first very hard on them until he starts to hear each of their stories of why they killed Beau. It was for what's not there any more...their mom &dad and what they put up with, someones uncle no longer here, someones brother who was beat down and killed because his mule beat the white man's big tractor, etc...They each told their story.

The KKK, with Luke Wills in charge, head out there at night and there's a bit of a shootout. The fat sheriff is maimed right off the bat. Later there's another big shootout where everyone was shooting everywhere and Charlie and Luke Wills end up dead. During the hearing at court, all the old men showed up broken...scratches, cuts, bandaged here and there, crutches, casts. And to top it all off, they had the courts rolling with their nicknames such as: Clabber, Dirty Red, Coot, Chimley, Rooster, etc...which the old black men kept using instead of their real names when telling their story.
MOVIE: A Gathering of Old Men (1987), starring Louis Gossett Jr, Richard Widmark and Holly Hunter. ( )
  MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
The debt is never finished as long as we stand for this.

What an incredible story. ( )
  KristinDiBum | Jul 21, 2023 |
Written in a simple and straightforward fashion, this book is anything but simple in its message and impact. The choice of having a different narrator for each chapter would not work well in just anyone’s hands, but Gaines is not just anyone, and he makes this device serve to reveal the truth of the situation without any bias or personal slant.

How could anyone read this without feeling a great deal of pride for the subject old men? Each of them reaches into his deepest self and emerges as his own master, a role they have each been denied for most of their lives. When Charlie declares, “I am a man,” he seems to speak not just for himself, but for all of the old men.

An excellent and important read.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
I'm not quite sure where the recommendation to read (or in my case listen) to this book came from but it certainly was a good one. First published in 1983 there was a movie made from it in 1987 with some, at least now, notable names in main roles. This audiobook was recorded in 2008 with a cast of narrators to voice the main roles in the story. I think that was a good strategy since it clearly delineated the different characters.

The book is set in the 1970s on a sugar cane plantation in bayou country in Louisiana. Although it is called the Marshall plantation the cane production is carried out by a Cajun family,the Boutans. Candy Marshall is a 30 something white woman who looks after the black folk who still live in the slave quarters. She is particularly close to an old black widower named Mathu. When Candy discovers Beau Boutan shot dead in Mathu's yard she comes up with an idea. She sends word out to all the other old black men in the neighbourhood to show up at Mathu's place with a shotgun and one spent number 5 shell. When Sherriff Mapes shows up all of the men plus Candy claim that they shot Beau. The sherriff is pretty sure that Mathu is the guilty party but he wants to avoid a riot which is what he fears would happen if he tries to take Mathu into jail. He is also concerned that the local Ku Klux Klan, of which Beau and his father Fix were members, will "ride" and lynch Mathu. There are lots of strangers around because there is a big football game the next day between LSU and Mississippi. Beau's brother, Gil, is one of the stars of the LSU team; together with a black team member he is a good bet to become All-American. Gil knows that if there is a whiff of trouble involving his family his chances of that coveted designation go out the window. So there is a lot of racial tension and it seems like the situation could explode with the slightest spark.

We know since last summer that there is still a lot of tension between blacks and whites in the United States but I don't think most people would casually drop the "N" word in conversation now. And I hope that the Ku Klux Klan wouldn't ride to lynch people in the 21st century. So I guess there have been some improvements but it must be difficult to be black now, especially a black male, and realize that one's life could still be in danger because of the colour of their skin. It's disheartening to realize that this story is not that different from what could still happen almost 50 years later. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jul 14, 2021 |
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I heard Candy out in the front yard calling Gram Mon.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Swedish title (1986): Gamla män samlas
Book; do not combine with the movie this book is based on.
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Fiction. African American Fiction. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML:A powerful depiction of racial tensions arising over the death of a Cajun farmer at the hands of a black manâ??set on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970s.
The Village Voice called A Gathering of Old Men "the best-written novel on Southern race relations in over a decade

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