Sunday, March 26, 2017

DMI2017, Week 11: "God's Gonna Trouble the Water" by Dominiqua Dickey

This week the Five of Clubs took me back to the collection Mississippi Noir and a gut-wrenching story by Dominiqua Dickey.


The story takes place in Grenada, Mississippi, a small town in north Mississippi, in 1936. Most people are well aware of Mississippi's long and difficult racial history, and that history infuses this story in a powerful way. The story begins as the main character, Elnora Harden, gets a panicked visit from Cissy, her young cousin. Cissy has lost her baby Hattie, who has actually been taken by her father, Graham Lee. The problem here is that Cissy is African-American and Graham Lee is white, and this is 1936 Mississippi. 'Nuff said about the million and one ways that sets this plot spinning.

Cissy and Graham Lee are under the impression that no one in the town knows about their romance and child, when of course everyone does. So when Hattie goes missing, it's not hard for Elnora to recruit help, mainly from Graham Lee's uncle, Rayford. To complicate matters even further, it's clear that he and Elnora have some kind of history, but it's not exactly clear what that history might be.

Elnora and Rayford finally find Hattie after a desperate search in a raging storm. She's found safe, but Graham Lee and Cissy are making plans to leave town, to find somewhere that they can be a family without judgment from others, and they ask Elnora to take care of the baby until they can come get her. She does of course, and this makes a happy ending for Hattie, but no one else in the story gets their happy ending. And after all, it is noir.

This would be an interesting and dramatic story all by itself, but it is made ten times more so by the background events, namely that much of the action takes place in a terrible storm that sets the mood perfectly. The storm also plays a major role in the climax and denouement of the story. At one point, one of the characters says of the storm, "It ain't letting up," and that could certainly describe Elnora and her actions as well.

The title of the story speaks volumes to the plot, and it is a reference to an old spiritual, "Wade in the Water," about the children of Israel being led out of Egypt by Moses. Here's an interesting take on the song:

This was a long and sometimes complex story due in part to all of the relationships (both stated and implied) between the characters, but I enjoyed it immensely. It definitely rates five stars with me.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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