Official Review: American River: Tributaries

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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psychopathycathy
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Latest Review: "American River: Tributaries" by Mallory M. O'Connor

Official Review: American River: Tributaries

Post by psychopathycathy » 23 Jan 2018, 03:00

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "American River: Tributaries" by Mallory M. O'Connor.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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When I was scrolling through books for review, this one caught my eye. As an immigrant, I absolutely love the diversity that America is so proud of; at the same time, however, I have to admit that I am ignorant about some other cultures and some other immigrant stories. I thought this book would be an eye-opening read and a chance to broaden my view of the world—and I was right. American River: Tributaries by Mallory M. O’Connor is a poignant story about three immigrant families living in California—one Irish, one Japanese, and one Mexican. The story actually begins all the way back in the mid 1800s, with the ancestors of these families. But Owen and Marian’s story starts in June of 1959, and when Marian leaves their family ranch to become an artist, the families’ different stories become one, even years later.

I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. What I love about this book is how realistically it depicts diversity and culture. This book was not a story about a picture perfect family, or about a hero with a tragic backstory; the story felt real. I think this is a book that many people, especially those who have found themselves in an unfamiliar environment, could relate to. In fact, American River: Tributaries hit very close to home for me personally, as I am an immigrant myself and have often heard stories about how hard my parents had to work to get our family to where it is today.

I thought that this book, in terms of plot, could have some improvements in terms of flow. There are some time jumps and some scene changes between different families, and sometimes they were a bit hard to follow. Although I loved the diverse character cast, I also had trouble remembering which story matched up with who and where they had previously left off. I still really liked how the story spanned several generations and how, at the end, it seemed to come full circle and revisit relationships between some of the earlier characters.

Speaking of the characters, I think they were very realistic in the way that they acted, but like I mentioned before it was sometimes overwhelming and difficult to follow so many. The cast of characters at the beginning helped, but I would have liked it if the story delved into more depth about a smaller cast. For example, one of the character arcs especially stood out to me—the book followed the development of someone who was queer and was struggling to come to terms with their own identity and with their position in the world. I respect the author very much for addressing such a modern and relevant issue.

I think the author did an amazing job of striking a balance between a pragmatic and a romanticized storyline. For example, one of my favorite character pairings was Mary Katherine McPhalan, also known as Kate, and Tommy Ashida. They had an extremely interesting relationship dynamic because of differences in race and culture, and I found this also extremely relatable, as I am someone who has struggled to reconcile with both Western and Asian traditions. Kate and Tommy’s storyline was almost bittersweet, but I thought it was a beautiful representation of the melting pot America is known as.

The writing style was also great, and I especially loved the line that explained how humanity was linked together, like tributaries of a stream. I only found one error in the entire book, which was a missing period. One thing I do have to mention though, is that there is one line that I felt extremely uncomfortable with. During a sex scene between a male and a female character, the girl calls the male an animal and follows that with, “You practically raped me.” She then says that she loved it. Though the two characters were having consensual sex, it seems as though the extremity of rape is removed and disregarded in this sentence and almost placed in a positive context. The author probably did not intend for it to seem this way, but I personally feel like this line was in very poor taste.

Overall, however, I would still recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of memoirs, historical fiction, or contemporary novels. In fact, anyone who is interested in reading about the lives of immigrants and different cultures would probably enjoy this read, and it certainly is eye-opening, especially since America is currently in such a state of political turmoil.

******
American River: Tributaries
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Sahani Nimandra
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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 28 Jan 2018, 07:23

The cultural diversity and historical details seem to provide all the facts that a hungry reader would want, but I feel this book is more towards the people who are of interest in this genre. Thanks for the detailed review!
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Post by kandscreeley » 28 Jan 2018, 08:59

Somehow I didn't think this was about immigrants. I don't think this one is for me, but I do appreciate your review.
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Post by RebeccasReading » 29 Jan 2018, 08:21

I also love books about immigrants because their stories are so interesting and inspiring!

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Post by Amberlily » 09 Feb 2018, 13:15

This did sound pretty interesting up until you pointed out that they make light of rape. I'm sure there are couples out there that joke about this kind of thing, but putting that in a book is a sure way to make the readers feel a little uncomfortable.

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Post by cristinaro » 17 Feb 2018, 13:32

Your review made me curious to check the book for myself. Thank you.

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Post by JuliaKay » 18 Feb 2018, 10:31

This is a great topic for a book and incredibly relevant during this time. I like that it focuses and not just immigrants from one country. It's a pity that this book didn't get a higher review score; however, I think that the author could easily improve upon this. Great review. :D

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Post by gali » 18 Feb 2018, 10:35

A tale revolving around immigrants' struggle to achieve the American dream sounds interesting. It is good that the author managed to balance between the pragmatic and the romanticized aspects. Too bad that the book doesn't flow too well, and it was hard to follow the tale at times. Not for me, but I am glad you find it eye-opening. Thank you for the review!
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by Emmanuel Oliver » 18 Feb 2018, 10:53

I love how this book grasp my attention from the first page with the twists and turns and the characters are just believable and unique. American River been a contemporary fiction is just everything I want in literature.

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Post by KitabuKitamu » 18 Feb 2018, 10:55

From the review, it seems that keen followers of American history would be interested in this book. I'm not sure I fall in that category.
I'm glad I passed by.
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Post by mindyg123 » 18 Feb 2018, 10:59

Good review. A story of immigration to the USA sounds interesting for lovers of historical fiction but not for me. Congrats on being BOTD.

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Post by lesler » 18 Feb 2018, 11:00

Thank you for the review of this book. I love historical fiction. I agree that the "consensual rape" statement made in the book is abhorrent. Regardless, this looks like an interesting read.

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Post by Zuribooks » 18 Feb 2018, 11:00

Any book that has a story about other cultures or religions will be welcomed in my shelves, it's really interesting to know the struggle of the immigrants... My parents are inmigrants (not in USA) but still I believe it's a book that will open the eyes of a lot of people... I will definitely read it... Good job.

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Post by jemgirl202 » 18 Feb 2018, 11:10

Despite the flow of the novel, this sounds like a wonderful read. According to the review it is filled with history and cultural diversity! Congrats on book of the day! Great review!

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Post by ReaderTeacher » 18 Feb 2018, 11:10

This review invokes a strong reminiscence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude.
There are some time jumps and some scene changes between different families, and sometimes they were a bit hard to follow. Although I loved the diverse character cast, I also had trouble remembering which story matched up with who and where they had previously left off. I still really liked how the story spanned several generations and how, at the end, it seemed to come full circle and revisit relationships between some of the earlier characters.
I think stories like these are definitely difficult to follow because they do include such a large cast of characters, but in the end they give us a much wider look into the path that life takes across generations. Most novels only give us a glimpse of life while novels that span generations help us to put our own lives into perspective.

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