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Community Read: A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest Gaines: Introduction

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Description: In the first half of this short novel, Gaines makes something poetic out of a melodramatic moment in Southern race relations . . . . Candy Marshall, 30-year-old heir to the rundown Marshall place in 1970s Louisiana farm-country, discovers the dead body of neighboring Cajun farmer Beau Boutan--and standing nearby with a gun in his hands is old Mathu, the proud black family-retainer who raised Candy, and her Daddy before her. Determined to protect Mathu, Candy quickly announces that she shot Beau; furthermore, Candy sends out the word that all the old black men in the area should join her at the murder-site, bringing shotguns identical to Mathu's. So, as the dialect-wise narration shifts from voice to voice around the neighborhood, a dozen old men respond to Candy's call--fearful, eager, skeptical: "We wait till now? Now, when we're old men, we get to be brave?" They gather near Beau's body, each of them (as well as Mathu and Candy) confessing to the killing, with their proclaimed motives becoming a whimsical yet powerful litany of longstanding grievances. As usual, Gaines offers spare atmosphere, keen-eared dialogue, and quietly taut confrontations. (excerpted from Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1983)

What if Everyone Read the Same Book?

2012 Community Read Event Guide


Book Discussions

Film Screenings


Special Events

Children & Family Events

Closing Event

Reader's Guide to A Gathering of Old Men


The concept of a "Community Read" project originated in Seattle, Washington, fifteen years ago. Huntsville-Madison County Public Library has sponsored a community read project annually since 2002. Every spring, the library encourages everyone in Madison County to read the same book. In support of this initiative, the library and partnering community groups sponsor lectures, book talks, discussions, film screenings, exhibits, concerts, and family events related to elements and themes of the selected book.

The specific goals of community read projects vary from city to city. For Madison County, we hope to encourage a love of literary reading and to help build and strengthen community bonds through shared discussion and experience.

The 2012 Community Read project for Huntsville-Madison County Public Library is funded by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

Thank you to our community partners and donors:

Barnes & Noble, Huntsville Chinese Association, Alabama A&M University, Dr. Edward Journey, Tennessee Valley Jazz Society, Unique Band, HMCPL Friends of the Library, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Phuket Thailand, The Kaffee Klatsch, Across the Pond, Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Shaggy's Burgers & Tacos.


Congratulations to the winners of the Barnes & Noble Nook eReaders:

1st Prize

Mary Margaret Tipton

Attended the Gurley Girls Book Club

Nook Color, Cover, External Speaker, Screen Protector, Barnes & Noble Membership


2nd Prize

Jamie Dodson, Author  (

Attended the Southern Author Expo

Nook Color, Screen Protector, Barnes & Noble Membership