Book Review: River’s Song

2 Aug

Sometimes when we look back, we are able to see ahead 
Following her mother’s funeral, and on the verge of her own midlife crisis, widow Anna Larson returns to the home of her youth to sort out her parents’ belongings, as well as her own turbulent life. 

For the first time since childhood, Anna embraces her native heritage, despite the disdain of her vicious mother-in-law. 
By transforming her old family home on the banks of the Siuslaw River into The Inn at Shining Waters, Anna hopes to create a place of healing—a place where guests experience peace, grace, and new beginnings. Starting with her own family . . . 

 First Chapter

Melody Carlson grew up in a small town in Oregon. She wasn’t raised in a Christian home, but when she turned 15, her life turned around dramatically after she became a Christian. She became very involved in missions, and was the youngest short-term assistant that Wycliffe Bible Translators ever had in Papua New Guinea.

Melody loved to write at a young age, but she found other ways to express her creativity over the years. Eventually she found she had a compulsion to write, and that she could write quickly. In 1995, her first book was published, and she has been writing prolifically ever since. Her award-winning books include: The Prayer of Jabez for Little OnesKing of the StableThe Gold and Honey BibleThe Ark that Noah Built, and Benjamin’s Box. In the past few years, she has published over sixty books for children, teens, and adults–with total sales of over a million copies. Melody’s recent projects include the Just Like Jesus Said series for children, Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them, and Looking for Cassandra Jane, and the upcoming releases Sold Out–the latest in the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, I’m Zoë–part of the Little Blessings series, When Creepy Things Come OutMiranda’s Story, and Heal Me, Oh God.

In her professional life, Melody has worn many hats: from pre-school teacher to political activist to senior editor. Currently, she writes full-time, and freelances from her home. She has two grown sons and lives in Sisters, Oregon with her husband, Chris, and Bailey, her chocolate lab. They enjoy skiing, hiking, and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

My Impressions:

My previous experience with Melody Carlson has been through her YA novels. The high school girls’ book club I hosted a few years back read several of her novels.  My daughter couldn’t get enough of her Samantha McGregor series.  So I was eager to read her newest adult novel, River’s Song.

I normally do not look at reviews by other bloggers before writing my own.  But several blogs I follow have featured this book today, and I read them.  It is amazing how differently readers view a book.  I won’t go into the specifics of the other reviews, but my take on the book is different from theirs.

First of all, River’s Song is set in the early 1950’s.  It has a definite feel of an era that is long gone, but I wouldn’t characterize the novel as historical.  The story could have taken place anywhere at anytime.  But I am glad Carlson chose the quiet backwater (that’s what some of the characters call it) setting of the Suislaw River in Oregon.  There is a restorative quality to the setting, and I really get that. My husband and I own a lake house on the end of a quiet cove.   It is hard to break away from our everyday lives, but when we get there, finally, we experience the refreshment not often found outside of God’s creation.

The main character, Anna, is difficult.  As viewed from a 21st century perspective, she is a bit unbelievable.  But Anna is from a different time:  her childhood experiences of The Depression, her adult experiences of caring for a husband injured physically and emotionally on the beaches of Normandy, the stigma of being a Native American in the early 20th century and her struggle just to survive in difficult times make her what she is.  Anna has been abused for years and that has taken its toll on her self-worth.  Did I like Anna?  Yes . . . and sometimes no.  I wanted to shake her to wake her up.  But ultimately Anna found the strength and courage to do what she knew was right.

And that brings me to what I feel is the biggest strength of the novel — the blessings of humility and forgiveness.  Meek and lowly of heart may describe our Lord, but most westerners would descry that as weak and foolish.  While I don’t think Jesus was a doormat (cleaning out the temple was sure a bold move), His example of servanthood is one that is hard to adopt in the face of abuse and misuse.  Carlson does a good job, through Anna, at showing what a servant looks like and what forgiveness will accomplish in the forgiver’s life.

So, yes I liked River’s Song.  I didn’t always like how the characters acted or the circumstances their creator put them in. Kind of like real life, eh?  But at the end, I liked how they persevered and matured.  Hopefully, that’s how I am living too.

Highly Recommended.

(I received River’s Song from Glass Roads PR in return for an honest review. The opinions expressed are mine alone)


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