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A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines

A Gathering of Old Men

by Ernest J. Gaines

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7581717,473 (3.97)60



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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.
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Books like this make me wish I believed in reincarnation so that could come back as a teacher and share this book with young impressionable minds. It is an amazing book, especially so because of the deft, multifaceted approach it takes in attacking the subject of racism.
It tackles it directly. This is does by relating stories which, while fictional within these pages, were duplicated countless times over in real life. It tells of black men who volunteered to fight in World War I, who served with distinction and who were decorated for their bravery. But when they returned home they were not given heroes’ welcomes but were feared and oppressed all the more because they had had the gall to think that they could get away with killing white men, even if they were Germans.
It attacks its inhumanity by discussing the many little ways that an entire people can be thought of as something less than human, something unfit to breathe the same air and drink the same water as human beings.
It attacks its impersonality. In almost every case, the old men justified their actions by relating events that occurred long in the past and had nothing to do with the victim of the crime at hand. Why did this happen to this man? Because he’s a white man and must share the guilt with all white men. Similarly, when Gil hears what happens to his brother, he immediately behaves as if his black teammate is in some way responsible. People are racist not because they find an individual offensive but because the faults they perceive in that person’s race are applied without exception to all of its members.
It attacks the way racism plays with our fears. If you want to get a white man riled up, ask him how he’d feel if his wife or daughters were raped by one of them. If you see a group of them armed with shotguns, you immediately assume aggressive, rather than defensive intentions.
While Gaines’ book can be treated as a treatise against racism, it is still an amazingly gentle book, full of characters you, for the most part, will become very attached to. It is also very much a book about loyalty and the courage to stand up for your friends, your beliefs, and yourself.
FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:
*5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
…Actually, there is no point to go on. This is a five point book, my favorite so far this year. I really loved it. ( )
  Unkletom | Sep 15, 2017 |
I was a little disappointed with this book. I love A Lesson Before Dying, but this didn't seem to have either the subtlety or the heft of that novel. It's a great story, really engaging, and proceeds at a nice clip. But the characters pontificate too much for my taste, and the ending was rather too tidy. Felt in some ways like a young adult novel. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
The Short of It:

A short but powerful read.

The Rest of It:

Borrowed from Goodreads:

Set on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970s, A Gathering of Old Men is a powerful depiction of racial tensions arising over the death of a Cajun farmer at the hands of a black man.

If you’ve been watching the news lately, racial tension is at an all-time high. How fitting that our book club chose A Gathering of Old Men for this month’s meeting. Of course, we picked the book back in January so we had no idea how it would mesh with current events but mesh, it certainly does.

The story is told very simply and perhaps that is what makes it so powerful. The book opens with the death of a Cajun farmer and in order to protect the person who did it, Candy, a white woman, confesses to the crime. Realizing that many will not believe her story, she gathers a group of elderly black men, all with shotguns, thinking that it will be impossible to investigate the crime if she and others come forward and take responsibility for what happened.

This story has many narrators, all of them distinct. With so many narrators, sometimes it’s hard to follow a story through but I enjoyed the different points of view. This is a book that you should take some time reading. It’s short but there is a lot to digest and think about. And when these men come together to stand-up for what they believe in, the outcome is somewhat unexpected.

My book club will be discussing this book during the holiday gathering that we have every year so I hope we actually get to discuss the book. I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Dec 9, 2014 |
I read this with great enjoyment, thinking at the back of my mind however: Wish fulfillment. Fairy tale. Not the black-empowerment part, but the number of white people portrayed as actually having learned some lessons from history. On the other hand -- Gaines grew up right there, in circumstances as deprived as any of the characters of this novel. And he has chosen go right back there to end his days. So who am I to tell him he's wrong in being hopeful?

Moreover it is easier to believe this of the rural South, where blacks and whites, as individuals, grow up on terms of lifelong intimacy, than of racially-sorted urban America.

(Also Gaines portrays big-time college sports, a blight on society in the minds of the right-thinking and progressive, as a force for good. Food for thought.)
  sonofcarc | Jan 6, 2014 |
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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
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679738908, Paperback)

Set on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970s, A Gathering of Old Men is a powerful depiction of racial tensions arising over the death of a Cajun farmer at the hands of a black man.

"Poignant, powerful, earthy...a novel of Southern racial confrontation in which a group of elderly black men band together against whites who seek vengeance for the murder of one of their own."--Booklist

"A fine novel...there is a denouement that will shock and move readers as much as it does the characters."--Philadelphia Inquirer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:54 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Set on a Louisiana sugar cane plantation in the 1970s, the book is a powerful depiction of racial tensions arising over the death of a Cajun farmer at the hands of a black man.

» see all 4 descriptions

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