Tuesday, July 31, 2007

River Rising, by Athol Dickson

River Rising, written by Athol Dickson and winner of the Christy Award, is an allegory masquerading as pure fiction. Set south of New Orleans, it reads like the air in that humid area, thick and heavy with a bite to it. The story unfolds as though on a river's timeline, meandering and nearly looping back on itself, bends in the river hiding what will happen next.

Dickson's hero is the Reverend Hale Poser, a black man with bright blue eyes who appears out of nowhere in the tiny swamp town of Pilotsville, where blacks and whites are required by the rich white town benefactor to get along. After the abduction of a newborn black girl, Hale is quickly swept into a series of events, alternately viewed as savior and sinner by the townspeople.

Dickson's story flows at just the right pace, gaining speed as it evokes compelling imagery and confronts the racism of Sunday mornings in the South. Hale is a sympathetic figure throughout, first as he seeks to save a forgotten people in his own strength, then as he remembers the power of God that once flowed through him.

I would not say this is a beautiful book, but it is a strong book, and one which I would highly recommend.

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