Have you ever experienced Indian Summers? The kind of heat where sweat pours out from every molecule of your skin, where you don’t see a single leaf moving, where the rotating ceiling fan is better turned off as it circulates only hot air, where you hear the buzzing of the flies and the mosquitoes but have no energy left to lift your hand and swat it away….it is honestly an experience that can never be captured in words which is exactly what I felt reading Jo Tuscano’s haunting tale of grief, I have no energy left to FEEL anything more.
The River Child opens with the tragic drowning of a 3yr old child and in that first chapter itself, the author establishes the setting of the story. An island cut off from the mainland with a guesthouse and the Montrell family, the writing by the author so brilliantly evocative that the images that were formed in my mind were crystal clear. Siobhan is just 11 yrs old when Elise boatman drowned but that one moment bisects her entire life into two, before the tragedy and after it. The guilt, the grief, the despair everything has crippled her life, and returning to Rachley island to the Gables Guesthouse is her one chance to deal with the ghosts of her past.
Each character in the Montrell family is distinctive, in fact, there are quite a lot of them but Jo Tuscano sketches them wonderfully though it is Aunt Esther that carves a space in one’s heart. As a mute spectator to the unfolding dramas in the house, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the utter helplessness of her situation. The dual timeline story that unfolds thru Siobhan has a unique writing style. There’s no THEN AND NOW technique, no PAST AND PRESENT demarcating the plot, it is just one whole story with the past as memories in Siobhan’s mind. I was thoroughly engrossed so had no difficulty in following the timelines, but for those who take numerous breaks in between reading, this may prove a tad difficult as we may have to go back a few pages to understand the timeframe.
The River Child is a novel that is beautifully touching, one that fills you with sadness but ends with hope and forgiveness. Even though The River Child left me with a lump in my throat that I couldn’t dislodge and made me walk around aimlessly, I was glad I read this for its poignant take on a family and the intricate threads that bind them all together.
Fair warning to readers, there are potential triggers relating to suicide, depression, rape attempt, and mental breakdown.
Many thanks to Odyssey Books and the author for a chance to read and review this book. All opinions are expressed voluntarily.
Standing beside Elise’s grave, Siobhan Montrell remembers how her mother finally blew the perfect smoke ring on the day that Elise disappeared. Remembers the day that would change and define her life forever.
The toddler’s body was found in the river near Gables Guesthouse. Only eleven years old at the time, Siobhan has carried the guilt of Elise’s death with her since that day.
Twenty-eight years later, Siobhan returns to Rachley Island, having inherited Gables — guesthouse and family home — from her aunt. Cleaning the property to prepare it for sale, she discovers an old book in which her aunt used to draw and write, revealing the truth about tragic drowning.
The River Child is a tale of grief and guilt, deceit and secrets, and ultimately forgiveness.
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