The Tragedy of Brady Sims is a perfect example of why I love Ernest Gaines' writing. Mr. Gaines wastes no time throwing his readers into a surprisingly calm yet violent situation that results from a vow made by Brady Sims. In The Tragedy of Brady Sims, Gaines exposes a tragic consequence for one family because of a belief held by many African American families that there's a need to punish their children harshly before 'they' can get a chance to claim them. The idea that children, especially male children, needed to be shown harsh boundaries and even harsher consequences no matter the motivation behind their behavior, is one that hits me squarely in the gut. Too many black children and young adults aren't allowed to freely be young and make mistakes and misjudgments without sometimes suffering devastating consequences.
One of the reasons that Gaines is a favorite author for me, is that despite the often tragic and disheartening topics his stories follow, the settings and people feel like home to me. I am able to almost see and hear the scenes unfolding. In The Tragedy of Brady Sims, I clearly see in my mind's eye the barber shop where the men gather. I can hear the pitch, timbre, and inflections in these men's voices. The dryness of responses and the side-eyed humor are all so clear. Although the majority of this story is heartbreaking, Gaines employs humor that can always be found with a gathering of old men. (I couldn't help myself.)
When it comes to laying out stories, Gaines doesn't tell his reader to look at how awful the world can be. Instead, he simply shows what has happened and trusts that his readers will see not only how disgustingly unfair the world can be, but that there are so much smoky grey fog in the world that most people get lost between what is right and what is wrong. Brady Sims is one of those men who gets lost in the fog. Needless to say The Tragedy of Brady Sims is going on my favorite reads list and I will be reading this one again and again over the years.
**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
**You may or may not know that 2017 for me is the year of Ernest Gaines, where I am attempting to read and review all of his works by December 31st. You can read more about my project here.
Ernest J. Gaines's new novella revolves around a courthouse shooting that leads a young reporter to uncover the long story of race and power in his small town and the relationship between the white sheriff and the black man who "whipped children" to keep order.
After Brady Sims pulls out a gun in a courtroom and shoots his own son, who has just been convicted of robbery and murder, he asks only to be allowed two hours before he'll give himself up to the sheriff. When the editor of the local newspaper asks his cub reporter to dig up a "human interest" story about Brady, he heads for the town's barbershop. It is the barbers and the regulars who hang out there who narrate with empathy, sadness, humor, and a profound understanding the life story of Brady Sims—an honorable, just, and unsparing man who with his tough love had been handed the task of keeping the black children of Bayonne, Louisiana in line to protect them from the unjust world in which they lived. And when his own son makes a fateful mistake, it is up to Brady to carry out the necessary reckoning. In the telling, we learn the story of a small southern town, divided by race, and the black community struggling to survive even as many of its inhabitants head off northwards during the Great Migration.