I first read this book over a year ago and that was possibly because of the author. However, I have never been disappointed with TJ Klune’s work and indeed have found that with each release he has improved and matured in his writing. This book has been shortlisted as a LAMBDA competition finalist, the results of which should be announced soon.
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
Five years ago, Benji Green lost his beloved father, Big Eddie, when his truck crashed into a river. Everyone called it an accident, but Benji knows it was more. Even years later, he’s buried in his grief, throwing himself into managing Big Eddie’s convenience store in the small-town of Roseland, Oregon. Surrounded by his mother and three aunts, he lives day to day, struggling to keep his head above water.
But Roseland is no ordinary place.
With ever more frequent dreams of his father’s death and waking visions of feathers on the river’s surface, Benji finds his definition of reality bending. He thinks himself haunted; by ghosts or memories, he can no longer tell. Not until a man falls from the sky, leaving the burning imprint of wings on the ground, does Benji begin to understand that the world is more mysterious than he ever imagined—and more dangerous. As uncontrollable forces descend on Roseland, they reveal long-hidden truths about friends, family, and the stranger Calliel—a man Benji can no longer live without.
In light of the events in the author’s life over the last six months, this novel becomes even more poignant. It covers the big subjects, life, the universe (literally), death, grief, redemption and love. The bond between a father and his son is presented to us as a beautiful and eternal one however, the stages of grief and separation are a hard but a necessary part of being alive and loving, which ‘Benji’ has to learn. It is hard to read a simpler or truer memorial to a father who has died, from his son, than the one TJ Klune pens here describing the stone angel watching over his father’s grave,
It’s as tall as a normal man, but much smaller than the man it’s supposed to represent. Nothing in this world could be as tall as him.
This is a novel full of beautiful lines to quote from, beautiful and hard emotions to experience tinged with the shiver and unsettling feel of the paranormal masquerading as the normal. The plot includes a mystery to be solved, surrounding the death by drowning of Benji’s beloved father ‘Big Eddie’ and I had no clue until very close to the ‘reveal’, as to who the real bad guy was but it all made sense. The story flows in a meandering and ethereal way at first introducing characters and events both eccentric and everyday. Looking at the small town of Roseland and its inhabitants is like looking through a cracked glass everything is as it should be, but slightly askew and out of kilter with the world of the reader. None more so than Benji, whose love, grief and loneliness is calling out to more than just the people of his life in Roseland.
When Calliel descends upon his life things can and will never be the same; not for Benji, not for Roseland and maybe not for the world. The heavy weight of grief and sadness is taking its toll, and as it pushes Benji to make discoveries both earthly and spiritual, the coming climax affects everyone in a miraculous way.
Whilst, the story of the love between a father and son is central, the love story between Benji and Calliel is extraordinary and beautiful in its complexity and simplicity. If this sounds like an oxymoron that’s because this novel is too. Simple faith, simple love and simple expressions of community spirit when mixed with complex grief, and the war between good and evil become an extraordinary and complex novel.
There are two more quotes, I want to leave you with because I think they are some of the most human descriptions of the pain of loss,
”He told me memories are like ghosts, that they will haunt you if you let them…it’s okay to be haunted for a time, because it’s the only way a person can grieve properly.’But you can’t let yourself drown in them…There is going to come a time when the ghosts are all you’re going to know, and it may be too difficult to find your way back.”
Everything that occurs in Into This River I Drown, the happy, the sad, the criminal and the divine is interwoven with a gentleness, a sweetness and innocence that is hard to properly describe in a review. You can maybe ascertain that I loved this novel by the garrulous Mr Klune, the ending is maybe a bit overwritten in that the climax to the story of Roseland seems a bit too much hyperbole and not enough calm to balance the text, but that is really a minor point considering the sweep of this novel.
I sincerely hope that this novel does well in the LAMBDA finals as it would be a deserving winner. Below I finish with the quote which is one of the explanations of the title,
Time is a river, I’ve learned. Always moving forward. But for most people like me, people who have loved and lost, the river is something we fight. We swim against the current, trying to get back to the way we once were, trying to hold onto anything to keep us from getting swept away. It’s exhausting and eventually we tire. Still we push on. I can’t let him go into the river and be swept away. I can’t let him go.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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