Official Review: What the River Wants by Arthur Byrd

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Official Review: What the River Wants by Arthur Byrd

Post by bluegreenmarina » 31 Jul 2018, 15:42

[Following is an official review of "What the River Wants" by Arthur Byrd.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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What the River Wants by Arthur Byrd is a pensive family-focused novel about members of different generations seeking to define their role within their family, and in the larger world. The story follows the life of Tom, a cantankerous and stubborn older man who has distanced himself from his family and spends his days in an off-the-grid cabin by a river, in a remote part of Mississippi. After a visit from Lee, his teenage grandson, Tom reluctantly re-establishes contact with the other members of his family, though the process is stilted and difficult. As we meet the other members of the family, we get a glimpse into each of their worlds, and the way their interactions with Tom shape their understanding of their mutual family history.

Through the process of discussing family stories and memories, Tom begins to process and remember parts of his own earlier life, particularly those involving his now-deceased wife. At the same time, he is forced to confront the memory of an old friend who betrayed him, as that friend returns and attempts to make contact. Rather than relying on his family for comfort and support, Tom keeps them at a distance, partially from habit, and partially due to a fear that they will discover that he is soon to be evicted from his land and beloved cabin. He is a man who desires only to rely upon himself, and as we follow his story we watch him struggle with the realization that he may no longer be able to do this.

There are several surprising and intriguing twists, which contribute significantly to the fluid pace of the story. Though this novel is highly psychological, with quite a bit of text devoted to the exploration of one’s inner struggles and ambivalences, the plot nonetheless progresses rapidly through a series of interesting events, and the narrative never feels too dense or heavy to move forward. One of the major themes is that it is the core of a person that really matters, rather than the details or “extremities.” In other words, a person (like Tom) may have many secrets, and many parts of him or herself that are hidden from others, yet the heart and essence of their personality may still be good, which is what is important.

This is a book rich with life, and each character has a vibrant and believable back-story. Several of the characters made significant emotional progress throughout the timeframe and as a result of the events that take place. This is a story that will make a reader think, as the characters themselves are forced to confront issues of mortality, and the nuances and ambiguities of life.

I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars, and recommend it to those who like stories that burn slowly at first, but come to a significant, emotional, and memorable ending. I would also recommend this book to those who enjoy exploring family dynamics and relationships or are simply looking for a glimpse into family life in southern Mississippi. Some readers may find this book a bit slow, especially at first, as it is a story that requires patience. However, many of the lessons of this book are in the atmosphere rather than the action, and the atmosphere of the river setting permeates the entire novel consistently and memorably.

What the River Wants
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Post by Rosemary Khathibe » 01 Aug 2018, 06:23

Family is very important in everyday life, so to think that Tom separated himself from his family for a very long time is a little bit weird. I mean didn't it matter to him how his children were living? I will definitely read the book to find out. Thanks for the great review.

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Post by AmySmiles » 01 Aug 2018, 06:41

I like books like this, but I don't like the slow beginning. I think I'll continue to pass on this one for now. Thanks for the review.
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Post by Corhan2 » 01 Aug 2018, 09:20

I enjoyed reading this review. It made me think about so many families today that are separated from one another because of something stupid and because of pride keeping us from making peace.

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Post by KarinaBordas » 01 Aug 2018, 11:50

Tom may be halting his life as he deals with his inner-turmoil and struggle at the loss of his wife. While focused on family, it seems that What the River Wants delves into what was and not what is. I would question whether Arthur Byrd chose this title to symbolize through Tom that we can not control the river (our life), rather we should cherish each bend (moment). I look forward to reading this novel!

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Post by kandscreeley » 01 Aug 2018, 12:32

A family story? Sounds interesting. I think we each have unique families and could probably all write stories about them. I love that this has plot twists along the way. That always makes any story more fun. Thanks for another fabulous review.
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Post by Cecilia_L » 01 Aug 2018, 20:00

Family dynamics can be so complicated. This sounds like a relevant story with some interesting twists. Great review!

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Post by Dael Reader » 02 Aug 2018, 16:35

It sounds a little strange, I know, but I love stories that explore the secrets and dysfunctional relationships that evolve in families. You write a compelling recommendation for this one.

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Post by Dahmy 10 » 06 Aug 2018, 07:17

An awesome review here, and I can see the experience you had painted all over... Thank you!!!

I would love to read this, I can see psychology therein, and I like novels that require patience and concentration.

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Post by Abigail R » 06 Aug 2018, 14:03

Family is something important to me. Your review allowed me to reflect on my own and wonder about the family in the story.
Thanks for the review!

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Post by Cardinalsparrow » 08 Aug 2018, 10:46

Your review is insightful... I have been able to get a glimpse of the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and I still look forward to reading the book.

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