I know this came out last year. I confess, I’ve had it on the reading pile for quite a while as one of those meaning-to-get-to-it books but, very often the decision to feature something in the blog or not depends on its length. It’s just a physical consideration of the reviewing process. So three-hundred-and-fifty page books have to be saved for special occasions like…airplane trips. A Gathering Storm was one of my take-alongs to Saints and Sinners, and I couldn’t have asked for a more absorbing travel companion. Much better than anyone in the seats next to me.
Inspired by the killing of Matthew Shepard, A Gathering Storm details the bashing death of a gay university student in the South. As he struggles for survival in the hospital, the investigation into the brutal attack echoes throughout the town. Besieged by national media, heroes and villains emerge from both sides of the story. When he dies, the hurricane intensifies until finally it blows its ill wind out and all that’s left is to deal with burial and aftermath.
Currier indicates in his introduction that this was written immediately in the wake of Shepard’s death but not published for one reason or the other until only recently. Though painful for Currier, I actually think the late timing works in his favor. Had it been published immediately, it would have been undeservedly swallowed up in the sea of similar books written on the subject. Though the crime Currier depicts bears much resemblance to Shepard, he takes the story to another level–several levels, actually, as he explores the heads of the victim, the perpetrators, their girlfriends, the victim’s parents, and investigators among others. He seeks to look beyond the stereotypes on both sides by looking at the inner truths of everyone involved.
In the hands of a writer without Currier’s narrative skills, the multiple viewpoints might either be too similar or too much of a stretch and chop up the narrative into too many pieces. Currier has bound these disparate parts into a cohesive whole that reveals the multiple facets of the tragedy and involves the reader in all aspects. Considering the diverse cast of characters, that is no easy task.
So even if you know the story, A Gathering Storm is of a different mind than most books you’ll read on the subject, concentrating more on the shades of grey than the black and white whole, written with a spare style that suits the subject and the characters. Recommended.
© 2015 Jerry L. Wheeler