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Tell Me a Tale: A novel of the Old South. [Kindle Edition]

James McEachin
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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  • Length: 288 pages
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Book Description

Tell Me a Tale is a novel set during the last years of slavery in North Carolina plantation township.
During the decade following the Civil War, the village of Red Springs, NC had not changed very much. It is steeped in the socially rigid behavior of the old South, the white South. A young black man named Moses has traveled many long miles to reach McMillan’s General Store. Here, sitting around the stove in their usual haunt, he finds the men he seeks. The young man enters the ill-kept emporium and finds the four old-timers gossiping and whittling. The very presence of a negro shocks them, but they don’t recognize Moses as a former slave from a nearby plantation. Still bitter and angry over the Emancipation of the area’s slaves, these four very unreconstructed whites are in no mood to listen to anything a colored person has to say, let alone one whose motives they automatically, instinctively suspect.
With the help of some fine cognac Moses has brought along for the occasion, he lightens the spirits of these mean old codgers with drink and the remarkable story he spins out over the next several hours, Moses tells them a tale of a young male slave, the boys white father who keeps a painful distance from the son he refuses to acknowledge, the youth’s wise “uncle”—a proud and complex former slave named Ben—and the fire that destroyed his former master’s plantation. It is a story rich in love and hope, but ultimately poisoned by the ruinous deeds of hateful men.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Years after the Civil War, Moses, a 17-year-old former slave, journeys back to the isolated North Carolina town where he had been born to arrogant white plantation owner Archie McBride and his young slave mistress. Posing as a pro-slavery journalist, Moses enters a general store where he buttonholes four old codgers who pine for "the good old days of servitude." Though these unreconstructed racists don't recognize their visitor, they once had committed arson and murder that had shattered the young man's childhood. As Moses indirectly confronts them with tales of the buried past (tales in which he is the unnamed protagonist), a powerful drama of one man's search for identity, justice and vengeance unfolds. Moses's narrative, shot through with Faulkneresque overtones, tells how he was raised by ex-slave "Uncle" Ben, a loyal laborer on Archie's estate; how, though an illegitimate, mixed-race child, he inherited the entire property, thanks to the machinations of Archie's vengeful wife; and how his dream went up in flames, making him an orphan. The subtext of McEachin's stunning first novel is the moral rot of slavery, its harmful effects on both white and black and its lingering legacy in deep-rooted prejudice. (Feb.) ~ FYI: McEachin, a veteran film actor (True Grit), was among the first African American actors to be the sole lead in a dramatic series (Tenafly).
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA?McEachin captures the flavor of the oral tradition upon which the rural South has been built. He sets his story in decidedly unreconstructed, small-town North Carolina, where Moses, a young slave, spins a riveting tale about his dignified "uncle" Ben; a disastrous plantation fire; and, above all, his own distant white father who will not acknowledge paternity. Moses tells his story to an audience of four old-timers who are passing the time of day in Millan's General Store. YAs will readily comprehend the moral stain of slavery upon the national psyche. The message resonates in 1996 as clearly as it did in the post-Civil War era: Emancipation generated bitterness and anger among whites even as it sparked those same emotions in blacks. McEachin's writing adds serious history to the folksy mood, resulting in an effective use of the folk genre. The magic of storytelling dominates the writing, thus avoiding the unpalatable "preacher's tale" effect.?Margaret Nolan, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 471 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: RHARL Publishing Group; Third edition (November 23, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004DL0LD8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,161 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well worth reading despite the slow beginning January 10, 1998
Format:Mass Market Paperback
As a professional in the publishing business, I feel the reviewers who knocked this book were unfair. Sure, it was slow to get into the story, but worth reading because the author was carefully building a solid foundation for the conclusion. I'm left feeling desolate and saddened by the ending, yet it was fitting for the situation and characters and teaches important lessons to the reader. This book gives one insight into the South and slavery from both the the white and especially from the black point of view. Thank you, James McEachin, for coming up with this unique method of story-telling! Please write more!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tell Me A Tale October 6, 2008
By Ms. 90
Format:Mass Market Paperback
And what a tale it is. Years removed from slavery, a teen-aged Moses leaves his caretakers and makes his way to Red Springs, North Carolina. When he reaches his destination, a ramshackled country store, he finds a group of men and while liquoring them up, begins to tell them a tale. As Moses' tale ends, one of the men realizes that this just isn't any old tale but his realization comes just a little too late.

If you can get past the first couple of chapters, you'll find that this is a decent piece of storytelling. I found the story pretty far-fetched, but it's well-written and finely crafted with nifty twists and turns that I didn't see coming. I must admit, it took about two weeks for me to finish this because while I found the story quite interesting, it was hard to read. I didn't find a rhythm or flow to the writing, so I was only able to read a few pages a day. It's pretty solid, though - different from my norm but not something that I would read again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars POWERFUL May 10, 2008
I have read this book twice - once several years ago and again at this time. The book haunted me with an otherworldly memory and needed to be revisited. I found McCachin's skill as an author and storyteller compelling and very deep. Some passages verged on sheer poetry. The plot unravels in such a way that, just as the reader senses predictability, new surprises arrive.

Good characterization also deserves note. Each person is iconic and simply but well developed. Mildred is the old fearful aristocracy and Archy is the change agent that victimized the South. Ben came forth as the old guard slave, Ms. Pratt the voice of hope, Moses, the new generation of liberated slave, and of course there was the ever present representation of ignorance and hate. The last chapter deserved two readings.

I am hoping that the author continues to write. I am also hoping this book is made into a screneplay. I would love to see it acted out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, important novel December 9, 2010
By Will
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Very seldom, there are books that really touch your soul. Even more rarely, there are authors who do that with every book they write. Such is the power of James McEachin and this, his first novel. Very hard to put into words what one finds in this book, but here goes. Poetry, drama, love, loss, violent death, slavery, redemption, vengeance, anger, forgiveness, life. Mr. McEachin has a rare voice, one that is informed by his experiences as a boy growing up in segregated North Carolina, polished by his time as an actor and playwright. He gives full rein to it in this amazing first novel. Highly recommended.

Make no mistake, this is a challenging book. But that is a truism about all truly great books, the ones that stay with you. As for the reviewers who did not like the book, well, I am sorry that it was not for you.

One more thing, once you have finished this, you will want to read McEachin's other books. Be sure and do it, you will be glad that you did. All are different, all are powerful. A truly great American storyteller.
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5.0 out of 5 stars should be mandatory reading for the human race January 29, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This gifted writer held my attention, interest, and heart for every page of this novel. I found the valleys and peaks of emotional turbulence as necessary as breathing air. The characters are so real to me that I only pray that no one has to truely experience this to get the perspective that the experience brings. If you've never understood someone trying to explain the "ghosts of the south" just take this journey which Mr.McEachin so skillfully offers and then you'll wonder as I do, "tale"-couldn't possibly be that far from truth, could it?
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By A Customer
"Tell Me A Tale" moved me beyond description. The characters, story and scenery drip off the page. The book reads like an epic motion picture. I loved every page, and hated to reach the end.I plan on reading it again. You need to stay on your toes. There's substance in every word.
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2.0 out of 5 stars did not find the characters compelling August 27, 1998
By A Customer
The book seemed to me to be a morality play with characters that I never cared about as individuals. I did appreciate its attempts to portray the great sorrow that hatred and revenge brings to all participants, but have read much more compelling tellings of that moral.
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