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.
Ernest Gaines was born on a plantation in Pointe Coupée Parish near New Roads, Louisiana, which is the Bayonne of all his fictional works. He is writer-in-residence emeritus at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 1993 Gaines received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for his lifetime achievements. In 1996 he was named a Chevalier de lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres, one of Frances highest decorations. He and his wife, Dianne, live in Oscar, Louisiana.
"Gaines knows how to tell a story. . . . [He writes] with humor, a strong sense of drama and a compassionate understanding of people who find themselves in opposing positions." Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
"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
"Early in this eloquent novel . . . a sheriff is summoned to a sugarcane plantation, where he finds one young white woman, about eighteen old black men, and one dead Cajun farmer. The sheriff is sure he knows who killed the Cajunalthough each of the men is toting a shotgun only one of them could hit a barn doorbut threats and slaps fail to change their stories. Each one claims guilt, and all but one promise to provoke a riot at the courthouse if the sheriff tries to make an arrest. In the meantime, they wait for a lynch mob that the dead man's fatherlike the son, a notorious bruteis sure to launch. . . . Before it is over, everyone involved has been surprised by something; the old black men not least of all, by their first taste of power and pride." The New Yorker
"A fine novel . . . there is a denouement that will shock and move readers as much as it does the characters, and a multiplicity of themes that raises a simple tale to grand signfiicance." David Bradley, Philadelphia Inquirer