This debut novel by a winner of the Saints and Sinners Award marks the advent of a major writing career. Totally original, with transcendent language, it lingers with me months after reading it, the way a river might wind through one’s dreams.
Multiple women across the span of many centuries inhabit or visit the Florida riverbank setting, where each encounters a significant life event. Each woman is struggling against boundaries that threaten to strangle her own sense of direction: an exuberant child who senses something terribly wrong with her mother; a physically challenged young woman who crashes against imposed gender roles; a potter consumed by her art who nonetheless must navigate tribal politics; an orphan seeking some station she can call her own; these are some of the many souls who inhabit these pages. And they do indeed inhabit this book; the pages are nearly saturated with longing, desire, fear, desperation, and so many other emotions. Some are exuberant, some rebellious; some hide from the world away from their watery retreat, while others meet their quests with buoyant courage.
One story of a dying woman whose lover restrains her own grief to aid her loved one’s passage literally took my breath away with its bone-deep portrait of true love. Because the river itself is so meticulously and passionately portrayed over millenia, this book gives us leave to meditate on how humans evolve in fits and starts and impossible leaps of faith, how we might still, over eons, become somehow worthy of our remarkable planet. A tour de force that richly deserves consideration by every reader who has traipsed through muck and loved every minute of it.
Disclaimer: This author and I share a publisher.