THE GLAD RIVER by Will D. Campbell


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Campbell, director of the Committee of Southern Churchmen, offered a warmly understanding portrait of Southern life in Brother to a Dragonfly (1977); and here, in his first novel, he makes some subtle theological distinctions about human love and human worship through the tale of three friends whose ""community"" survives war, persecution, and death. They meet at Camp Polk in Louisiana during WW II: Claudy (""Doops"") Momber, who'll go where he's sent but won't kill, who won't be baptized, even though he's a bookish loner and likely preacher; Kingston Smylie, the ""Redbone"" (maybe with Indian or black blood), homesick for the Granddaddy who'd raised him as his son; and Fordache Arceneau (""Model T.""), a Louisiana Cajun whom the others coach on his accent and his verbs. The three are an instant ""neighborhood,"" as Doops says: a ""community"" where ""you don't get in. . . ain't something you join. . . you're just in!"" But when they're shipped to the South Pacific to ""kill Japs,"" Doops, separated from the rest, comes across a small, very ill Japanese, mired in a pool of his own wastes: in a few days their stumbling communication becomes a mystical union--as Japanese ""Reuben"" turns out to be a priest, giving Doops a vision of dead martyrs. . . before Reuben orders his own death. So, when the three friends are reunited much later in a hospital, Doops, in the mental ward, writes and writes, telling the story of 16th-century Dutch Anabaptists--fanatical, persecuted, pacifist, communal, utterly unlike their 20th-century descendants. And, back in the States, the friends work, play together, visit Model T.'s secret treasure (a pure pool of lilies deep in the bayou). . . till Model T. is accused of the murder of a girl he loved: at the trial, the forces of political greed and prejudice doom him, but not before he baptizes Doops. (In a God-created community--unlike a man-created country--we must ""forgive each other first."") Too lumpy with preachment for breathing fiction overall, but the ""prophesizing"" is challenging, strong stuff--with a liberal ecumenical reach.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1982
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston