Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The River King - Alice Hoffman


 I nearly stopped reading this book before it got going.... the starting section, with it's scene-setting and introduction of characters seemed to me to be quite slow, and going nowhere.   But somewhere in Hoffman's beautiful writing style was a little something that kept me reading .......

I started off thinking American Gothic.   Perhaps a ghost story?  Small town America?  Not a love story, anyway.  Along the way I changed my mind several times, although the book does indeed contain all those elements, together with several flawed characters whom you may, or may not like very much.  That's how I felt, anyway.  But like them or not, I wanted to keep reading about them.

Abe Grey, a single and singular man, policeman, brother of a suicide victim in his teens is a man who can't let go.  Of anything he deems important.  He's going to be the catalyst for quite a lot of things in the story.  Carlin Leander, a girl from a poor background who arrives in town with a place at a private school.  A girl who is a loner, who doesn't make friends easily, and who finds that the people she gets on with best with are a teacher at her school who needs help to deal with and cover up a terminal illness; and August Pierce, a boy who arrives at the same school and on the same day as she does.  He's a loner too, and it is he who will set a ball rolling that cannot be stopped.

People fall in love with these characters  and they too feel love,  but that love is not necessarily reciprocated at the time.  The whole book is about love, but is not always a love story.

So when Abe Grey finds out something strange about a death which appears sad but normal to others, he isn't going to stop, even if he loses nearly everything on that journey.  A mystery, a little bit of magic realism, life, death and love all knitted together in a wonderful style.  Recommended.