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Seven Islands of the Ocmulgee: River Stories

By author: Gordon Johnston
Product Code: P666
ISBN: 9780881468793
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Availability: In stock
Price: $20.00

These seven river stories, written after the author canoed the Ocmulgee and its tributaries, draw on European American, Native, and African American traditions and relationships with the upper river between the confluence of the Yellow, Alcovy, and South Rivers under Jackson Lake and Macon, Georgia. Set from the 1810s to the present, the stories follow characters as their inherited or adopted perspectives on the river--and their ignorance of it--are altered by their personal experience of the watershed's danger, power, and life. Each story engages a specific place, among them Pittman's Ferry, the Seven Islands, Smith Shoals, the levee in Macon, and the Ocmulgee Mounds of the Mississippian people. A middle-aged woman who has lost her father and the pawn shop she inherited from him kayaks a wild Seven Islands rapid, looking for solace or self-destruction; an orphaned boy finds purpose and a path toward self-definition through borrowed Native culture and gar-fishing; the river baptism of a scarred, violent man tamed by a stroke revives a congregation even as it reopens old wounds; a long-exiled, past-her-prime call girl returns to Macon to uncover a surprising sense of belonging; Towaliga River memories carry a Navy sniper through his grim wartime duty. Canoe-camping on the Ocmulgee, subject to its weather and flow, and seeing how its force shaped the landscape, Gordon Johnston recovered a sense of time grounded in geology. "Humanity is small and new in the long life of the watershed," he says. "I wrote these stories with that humility in mind."
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Review by: Robert Boswell, author of TUMBLEDOWN - January 2, 2023
"Gordon Johnston's SEVEN ISLANDS OF THE OCMULGEE is not a quiet book of meditations on a river. Rather, it is a deeply engaging set of intertwined stories that feature the complexity of character one associates with literary fiction while also offering surprising, twisty plots that send the reader rocketing through the pages. This is a terrific book. I loved reading it."
Review by: Melanie Sumner, author of HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL: A NOVEL - January 2, 2023
"Gordon Johnston writes these stories in sharp, terse sentences about the river he knows so well. With a knack for dialogue, he creates characters from the inside-out, making them absolutely real to the reader. We find ourselves in the minds of Rea, tense as she maneuvers her kayak through a difficult stretch of rapids, frantic to save a boy on the shore, and a stranger 'whose beard flowed black with river…' Deep revelation into the minds and hearts of these Southerners combined fast-paced adventure makes SEVEN ISLANDS OF THE OCMULGEE a delightful read."
Review by: Jim Grimsley, author of WINTER BIRDS - January 2, 2023
"The river that runs through this book is made of Gordon Johnston's fine, musical prose, and the stories he tells are at once ancient and modern, as humans from our busy, self-satisfied world intersect with aspects of the past that haunt us still. In 'The Only Place to Start From,' a First Nations youth recruits a Publix grocery store manager to help him on the start of a life journey; in 'Burying Ground' members of a church travel through a mill village to find an old riverside for a baptism and encounter a battle with old sins as they do. Each story is finely wrought, complex, worth pondering for a goodly while. A reader can't ask for more. This is a fine book by one of Georgia's best writers."

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