Go as a River by Shelley Read

As a book reviewer I was given the chance to read an advanced copy of Go as a River by Shelly Read. It is not my typical novel, very little budding romance but by the end I had connected with it in surprising ways.

I kept commenting out loud to Danny that “another character has died” and he asked me if I was going to stop reading the book. I didn’t and when Part four started I was glad I stuck with it. I appreciated the promise in the final pages of the story, possibly more so because of the sadness in the first three parts of the book.

It might be difficult to recommend this book to everyone. It is best for avid readers who appreciate that sometimes a book is meant to remind you of how difficult life can be for others and how difficult it was in past times. Go as a River was recommended for people who liked Where The Crawdads Sing but there isn’t a mystery to solve or much love throughout the book.

Victoria, or Torie, falls in love early in the story and we learn of previous family tragedies before the new ones continue to happen. She is a resourceful, however lonely, character and ultimately finds a place for herself but the journey there is over 25 years and is filled with grief. What she experienced is worthy of a lifetime of sorrow and the slow pace and story telling style of this novel is painfully realistic.

A seventeen year old Torie has already faced the tragedy of losing her mother, aunt and cousin to a car crash. She learns to manage the family home in the following years and daily life changes only with the seasons on her family’s peach farm until she meets a young man on a walk through town.

Wil is dirty, a drifter, and an American Indian and Torie can’t help but fall in love with this gentle and loving person. After the young man is murdered because of the color of his skin, she leaves home when she feels she cannot hide her pregnancy any more. With no where to go she heads to the high mountains with only the basic supplies to bring her baby into the world. She is consistently trying to do the next right thing but lacks the foresight to survive in the wild more than a few months. When new motherhood in the wilderness proved life threatening, in desperation she travels back towards home and leaves her baby with a new mother having a picnic she comes across.

Returning home she finds her brother and uncle gone and her father in poor health and a government reservoir planned which will eliminate her hometown. Without ties to the town and memories of Wil at every turn she decides to sell to the government early and begins the process of relocating to another town.

Anchor-less and drifting again she starts to make a life for herself in the new town but carries the sorrow of her past with her. Victoria eventually discovers the story of her baby, another filled with loss and sorrow but finds hope and heart strings with the family she is able to create.

The theme reminded me a bit of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow where the characters must simply continue on in the face of all life throws at you. It is a novel worth reading if you believe a text can teach you things about yourself without trying to teach a lesson. One reviewer called it an American Gothic Novel and I think that is the best category to put it in. It is a story of sorrow and the type of hopelessness a person carries when they actually have the flame of hope burning deep inside.


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