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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review - Tomorrow River

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Here is the review of the book that is up for the giveaway.  You still have a chance to enter for this book - and I think after you read the review you probably will want to enter.  It is brand spanking new, hitting the stores TODAY. 
Author:  Lesley Kagen
Copyright: April 29, 2010 (Dutton Adult); 342 pgs.

Series: Stand alone novel

Sensuality: Adult references

Mystery sub-genre: Suspense

Main Character:  11 year old Shenandoah (Shenny) Wilson Carmody

Setting: 1969 Shenandoah Valey Virginia

Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

When I received this book from the publisher the blurb got my attention and I was looking forward to reading it.  It does not dissapoint ladies and gentlemen, I will say that upfront.  When I was in school I had to read the short story "Haircut" by Ring Lardner, it was so good I remember it to this day.  This novel reminds me of that short story for how skillfully a terrible truth is slowly revealed.  If you know that short story then you will understand what I am saying.  Enough of that, on to the review.

The one year anniversary of Shenandoah and her twin, Woody's (Jane Woodrow) mothers disappearance is approaching.  The night of Evelyn Carmody's dissapearance was the last time that Woody has spoken.  Her last words were "Mama gone, Mama gone" and not another word.  Woody is the family artist and her drawings have become dark and bloody.  Woody is emotionally fragile and Shenny takes over the care of Woody since their bond as twins allows her to understand Woody when nobody else can.   Over the last year their father, a powerful judge of the area, has become increasing drunk and abusive to his girls, often locking them in the cellar overnight.  This doesn't help Woody's emotional state and Shenny decides she just has to find her mother because they can't keep going like this - Woody can't keep going.  The story that follows is spellbinding.

Where to begin?  Shenny is a character I doubt you will forget for a very long time.  This eleven year old leaps off the pages and you feel her bravado and vulnerability in the depths of your heart.  She is wise-cracking, strong, coureageous, laugh-out-loud funny and poignant.  Through her eyes you piece together what must have happened to her mother that night and yet she doesn't see it.  With each chapter another part of the drama drops in place and Shenny is too grounded in what she believes of people and circumstances whereas the reader isn't so blinded with preconceptions.

Then there is Woody, Shenny's twin who is clearly emotionally scarred from whatever she knows of that fateful night.  This character is lovingly brought to life with a very skilled touch.  Fine details in the rendering of the twins make them living and breathing people rather than paper and ink.  Details, such as how the twins have their own language and when Shenny uses their words it calms Woody, bring to life how their connection sustains them.

A supporting character that surprisingly shines through strongly is the poor boy across the river, E.J. Tittle.  E.J. is homely and not socially an equal who is completely devoted to Woody and daily is by the twins' side doing everything in his power to help them.  Shenny calls him their sidekick and he proves his worth several times and has his comic moments too.

I must mention the character of Evelyn Carmody, the twin's missing mother.  Through Shenny's bittersweet memories of her mother an idependant, liberated northerner who loves poetry and musicals haunts the pages.  To craft a character from snippets of memories is daunting but Ms. Kagen is wildly successful at it.  I adored this yankee whose free spirit came up against a heart-of-the-south community.  
She lies down so gently beside me, I have to check to make sure that she actually has.  "Don't do that.  You're givin' me the creeps," I say, trying to pry her arms apart.  She's firmly X'd them across her chest and lowered her lids.  With Mama's dusting powder covering her from head to toe, she looks exactly like one of the corpses over at Last Tidings funeral parlor that's waiting for somebody to tip the casket closed so they can be on their way.  "Look Woody," I say, getting strict with her.  "I know you're hurtin' so bad that you wish you were, but you're in fact - not dead.  Remember how I felt the same way when I got so melancholy?  You got to shake this off.  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps."  I'm trying to hold my breath so I don't smell Mama's Chantilly powder.  "I didn't make much progress today, but I'll find her, just wait and see.  It'd help a lot if you'd quit runnin' off."
I know it seems like I don't miss my mother as much as she does, but I do.  It's just that Woody is counting on me to rescue our damsel in distress, so I cannot wear my feelings on my sleeve the way she does.  I got to stay strong, armored up, but I want you to know, there is no way to describe how much I pine for our mother.  The way she presses her cool full lips down to soak the fever off my forehead.  Her cheeks smooth as the underbelly of leaves and how her honey, shoot.
The characters are rich and highly memorable.  The plot holds up it's end as well.  As the one year anniversary fast approaches, marked by the return of the carnival, events gain momentum toward an edge-of-your-seat climax and twist ending that I really didn't see coming.  I can not think of a single area that could be improved in this story.  Am I gushing?  I suspect that this novel is so good that a few decades from now it will be considered an enduring classic.  That is right, you heard it hear first!  This is my un-compensated honest opinion of this novel.  I clearly recommend Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen.
For your convenience you can get your copy here.
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