“River Rising” by Athol Dickson (A Suspense Zone Blog)

Racial Equality and Religious Faith in 1927

Pilotville,Louisiana, 1927, isolated outpost on the Mississippi. Reverend Hale Poser, a stranger come looking for his roots. Hannah Lamont, new baby daughter to James and Rosa, a breach birth if not for the stranger’s touch upon her mother’s belly. She’s her parents’ sweet joy until, suddenly, she vanishes. Who but this stranger could have done this terrible thing? Who but this man of miracles could see that it’s undone? In the swamp beyond the tupelo and cypress a lingering evil sleeps no longer. It will rain down on Pilotville; it will rise up like a river, and nothing but a miracle can stop this awful flood .Read more: http://www.atholdickson.com/2012/05/10/river-rising/#ixzz2DP1LjI6R


Athol Dickson’s novels transcend description with, a literary style that blends magical realism, suspense, and a strong sense of spirituality. Critics have favorably compared his work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly) and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). His RIVER RISING is an Audie Award winner and three of his novels have won the Christy Award, including his most recent, LOST MISSION. Athol’s next novel, THE OPPOSITE OF ART, is about pride, passion, and death as a spiritual pursuit. Look for it in September, 2011. Athol lives with his wife in southern California.

Credit Sources:  here and here.

ENDORSEMENTS for River Rising:

“It’s not often that a book makes you think of William Faulkner’s Mississippi fiction and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia , both at the same time. But Athol Dickson has done that with River Rising.” – –Tom Morrisey, author of Deep Blue

“Brimming with discoveries as mysterious and deep as the Louisiana backwater of its setting, River Rising flows with passion and truth. Dickson’s beautifully written story will flood your soul long after the final page.” – Brandilyn Collins, bestselling author

“A quest for faith and freedom, River Rising is a thought-provoking, fascinating journey into bayou country, super-charged with intrigue.” – Linda Windsor, award-winning author of Fiesta Moon (Westbow Press)

“Athol Dickson appeals to our sense of hope in his cleverly crafted River Rising. Prejudice, intrigue, and an intense need for justice float to the top of Mississippi’s swamp in a turn-of-the-century tale that will grab you by the heart and never let you go.” – DiAnn Mills, Writer

“With a prophet’s eye to the past and future, Athol Dickson gives us a moving story of sin and redemption. River Rising flows with beauty while raging with emotion. His characters could walk off the page.” – Eric Wilson, author of Expiration Date and Dark to Mortal Eyes

“Athol Dickson is a one-of-a-kind author and River Rising is simply marvelous. With remarkable skill, Mr. Dickson has created characters that walked from the pages and shackled themselves to my heart. Congratulations, Mr. Dickson, you are one of the greats.” – Tracey Bateman, President, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Author of The Color of the Soul (Barbour Publishing)

“We are thunderstruck. Incredible story. Incredible writing… Disturbing… and yet full of hope. It doesn’t get any better than that.” – Dave and Neta Jackson, Authors, The Yada Yada Prayer Group series (Multnomah)

Christian Library Journal: “This gripping historical fiction novel is a hard-to-put-down look into the bayous of Louisiana and the secrets it harbors. River Rising is full of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the end what the outcome of Hale’s journey to Pilotville will be. …an intriguing page-turner… Athol Dickson [is] an author not to be missed.”

Christian Fiction Review.com: “The first novel of 2006 may be the best of the year already. This one will be hard to top…. Fall into this beautiful and heart-rending story. Be devastated by the evil of man and overwhelmed by the grace of God. See the true hope that can unite Christians of all cultures, colors and backgrounds…. Highly Recommended.”

Armchair Interviews: “This book is Louisiana’s To Kill A Mockingbird … It will make you ask questions that need to be asked. And the reader will look for answers that are there to be found. You will see the worst side of man–and man at his best, seeking the God of the universe. Once you pick up this book you won’t want to put it down until you’ve turned the last page.”

My Review:

Based around the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 comes a riveting story by Athol Dickson, River Rising, a mighty novel penned, displaying the true disparity between true racial equality and religious faith.  It’s a time when Negro, n—–, or a colored man were terms still used for African-Americans.

Reverend Hale Poser returns to Pilotville, Louisiana, in his later years to find his roots.  He’d been raised in an orphanage farther north for his childhood years.  He’s a black man with distinctive robin egg’s shade of blue eyes, making him stand out amongst the people of his color.  Though the Civil War has long ago set slaves free, and this town is tolerant between the races, its segregated when they worship–the whites gather in a white church and the blacks in a black church–a phenomenon that Reverend Poser would like to see changed.  True unity between Christian believers.

The basic story opens when James and Rosa Lamont give birth to their daughter Hannah after Reverend Poser prays over Rosa during her difficult, extremely painful labor.  A miracle is claimed when the baby is born peacefully.  Yet days later Hannah is missing. The town’s people, black and white, unite in searching for the baby, but after five days they cease. Though the area around Pilotville is swampy and dangerous, two men continue searching, James Lamont and Reverend Hale Poser, though they are cautioned to cease their search.  Who has taken Hannah?  In fact, who has taken the many children missing over the years?

The unusual physical characteristics of the author’s characters take on a life of their own, and are used to later qualify certain actions throughout the book.  The character of Hale Poser is the one who catches my heart with his simple faith and transparent openness.  He’s adamant that he does not perform miracles, but that it’s the Lord who does, giving the glory to the Lord.  But when circumstances change horrifically, and Hale feels he’s lost his faith and ability to perform miracles, will he succumb and give up on God?  The brutality is horrendous and despicable.

Two other characters that catch my attention, because of their power and authority over the people of Pilotville, are Papa DeGroot and Wallace Pogue.  Both men are highly respected in the town.  How that power is used is part of the mystery of the story line.  Something seems amiss surrounding the circumstances of the missing baby, yet these two men exert their authority discreetly differently–one for good and one for evil.  It’s the influence of both that reeks havoc in the town.

The diction of the people is typical bayou language for the time era, making the story credible and interesting.  The author’s use of descriptive language brings the world alive, creating a setting that is vividly ‘seen.’  I was thoroughly captivated with the historical aspects, the mysterious plots, and the deep characterization.  One cannot read this book without it touching your heart in some way.  The issues have always torn me apart.

My only concern is how God is explained to have come down in the person of Jesus.  He was Jewish, and the color of His skin should not make a difference to any of the races.

This book was provided by the Susan Sleeman of The Suspense Zone in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary compensation was received.


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