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Shall We Gather at the River Hardcover – September 26, 2011

9 customer reviews

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About the Author

The author grew up in the hills of North Carolina, many years after these star-crossed lovers, farming (without power equipment) in the same manner described in their story. After leaving the farm he attended several colleges, earning five academic degrees (including a PhD in Asian Theatre) and pursued various careers (Methodist and Unitarian ministries, college professorship, theatre director and actor and professional mime). While on Fulbright assignments in India and Thailand he gained perspective on his own cultural roots and has written theatre scripts, poems and a previous book, Trickster Jack, Wheatmark Press, exploring those Appalachian mores and values. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Xlibris (September 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1465348069
  • ISBN-13: 978-1465348067
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,750,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tim DeVries on March 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Picking up the book one evening, I stumbled in the very first sentence: Sarvisberry flowers? A cadence, a flower, a structure of words that I found difficult to follow until I quieted my disbelieving inner voice and began mumbling out loud the words on the first few pages. I was learning a new language, a pacing, and an understanding of another that was not spoken from my Midwestern roots. I was learning a new way at looking at an America and yet also looking at the same story told for hundreds of generations about the love and longing of another.

Was I having a conversation on unrequited love?

I was uncomfortable in the language, I was uncomfortable in the words, I was asking myself who could write today in the language of race and love and conversation between two realities that I did not know but had to trust that the author with the photo of the wide lapels of a generation gone by might know about sharecroppers and the speech of the mountains and of the speech of the races I do not know. I read on.

The story of the language and the pacing and of names unfamiliar quickly became friends. And as I read along I became a traveler on the footpaths in the hills, on the dirt roads leading between farms; I swam in the swimmin' hole after the chaff and hay had stuck to my sweaty arms and neck; my mouth watered in anticipation of the warm pie waiting on the picnic table after revival. I could even smell the rusting iron fencing and cool stone in the cemetery. The language of this place had come to me.

Afterwards, I dug in a box of long-shelved and long-buried boxes and pulled out the brown-covered school assignment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Terri Kirby Erickson on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In his novel, Shall We Gather at the River, E. Reid Gilbert paints vibrant word pictures of life in the "hills" of Virginia in the 1870's. With remarkable attention to detail, Gilbert introduces us to star-crossed lovers Jimmy Sue, the white son of generations of farmers, and Madeleen, the African-American daughter of sharecroppers. As marriage was illegal at the time, between people of different races--even in the farthest reaches of the Virginia mountains--their attraction to one another is doomed from the start.

To further complicate matters, Madeleen is passionate when it comes to her Christian faith, and refuses to enter into any union that cannot be sanctified by God and church. Jimmy Sue, who goes through the motions when it comes to church-going, is less concerned about what God thinks of his feelings for Madeleen, but it is difficult as a teenage boy, to go against the tide of family and community values. Some of the most fascinating passages in the book involve an insider's look at the beliefs and practices of the Primitive Baptist Church that Jimmy Sue's family attends.

Reid brings each and every one of his characters to full and vivid life, using dialectical speech to invite the reader into the world he has created in a visceral and deeply affecting way. We feel every pang of this young couple's tender emotions and their turmoil over what to do with their "illicit" feelings for one another, which are disapproved by their families and society at large. But love knows no boundaries and the heart wants what it wants. Like a river, these two young people's wrenching romance ebbs and flows, and we as readers are fortunate to "gather" with them as this poignant love story unfolds.
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Format: Hardcover
Shall We Gather by the River
By E. Reid Gilbert
Thoughts and Reflection by Ilene Evans 2013

Shall We Gather by the River is a touching story of young love in the Mountains of Virginia not long after the end of the Civil War, during the time when racial mixing was strictly forbidden. But in the mountains, people live by a slightly different standard of social mores. This is partly because of shared needs and limited resources and partly because a greater value was placed on kindness to neighbors. Respecting and helping one's neighbor was important regardless of race. And so the story is of families who share the mountain, farming and making the best of their crops together. The story is tender and poetic, with the sound of the mountain streams and the hawk calling overhead. The planting, thrashing, cultivating, celebrating, and worshipping can be shared and part of being neighborly, but love, and courting, not with a colored family. Such love is forbidden, even in these majestic hills. Madeleen could never forget the restrictions of her race, though Jimmy Sue questioned the boundaries and pushed hard against them. Their unexpected intimacy, their stolen touch, the astonishing kiss that came so naturally all the unsteady legs of young love have a shared innocence and all the fresh thrill of spring rain and soft dew. Gilbert draws the characters as they may have truly been in that time. Their awkward youth is approaching adulthood and yearning to be like their mature role models. They ply the tools of diffidence, of hesitation, respect, and honor. Hesitation - because of the sense of propriety about how boys and girls should act together and long courtship.
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