River Rising by Athol Dickson

Pilotville is a town built on stilts and lies. It’s the place where Hale Poser, who was raised in an orphanage, arrives looking for answers to his past—“his mother, or his father, or at least a tombstone with their name—his own name, whatever that might be.” What he discovers is a town that is full of contradictions, with whites and blacks who associate in everyday life, yet worship separately; and a town benefactor who is extremely kind and giving to the folks of Pilotville, yet has a horrifying secret life.

Hale is an interesting character, and I really like him. He’s a man whose faith is so simple that he doesn’t even realize he regularly performs miracles and is constantly surprised when people around him tell him that he’s done so. For Hale, it is just a natural occurrence that a wounded bird he rescues is healed and able to fly. He believes it is just his heart’s longing that momentarily brings two churches together as he stands in the gap between them. He was so believable that I could identify with him, even when—especially when—he let himself be convinced he was a miracle worker. Hale became so full of pride that he lost the blessing of simple faith and his ability to see God work more miracles through him.

There weren’t quite as many layers to River Rising as in some of Athol’s other works, but there were some surprising twists. You’ll be shocked as you discover a plantation with an evil secret, and Hale caught in the middle of it. But it is in the middle of the horror where Hale finds what his heart desires—his heritage.

This is a story about trusting God and allowing Him to work miracles because of our faith. It’s a story of bondage and freedom—literally and emotionally. Ultimately, it becomes a story of a people who cross racial barriers to help rebuild their lives and bring a community back together. It’s a great story, with an ending that is bittersweet yet triumphant.

Riving Rising is another winner from Athol Dickson, who, for my taste, tells the perfect story. He begins with nuggets, tiny ticklers of insight. Then he unravels the story bit by bit, drawing the reader ever closer to the truth. The eyes widen, the senses tingle as the pieces begin to form together, and then the thrill of the discovery takes hold. Tantalizing story-telling at its best!

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