3 out of 4 stars
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American River: Currents is the poignant and unforgettable second book in the American River Trilogy created by Mallory M. O’Connor featuring the McPhalan, the Ashida and the Morales clans.
The story begins in January 1963, a week after the death of Julian McPhalan. As the dead ceases to exist, the living go on with their lives. Marian Archer McPhalan moves to New York and meets a young sculptor. Alex gets to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music under the enigmatic classical piano superstar Maestro Stefan Molnar. Kate pursues a master’s degree when she and her husband Carl move to Cleveland. Carl’s father Jorge Morales supports La Causa, the farm workers’ cause, his wife Rose joins an anti-war group Another Mother for peace (AMP), while his son Silvio registers for the draft and his daughter Allison goes to Kent State.
Meanwhile, Tommy Ashida, oblivious of his mother’s debilitating disease back home in Stockton, California, is selected for the International Studies Program in Architecture at the University of Kyoto in Japan and meets a delicately beautiful girl.
As the members of the three clans find their way through the 60s, their lives are struck by tragedy after tragedy leaving them with deep emotional scars.
Told in the third person perspective, this is a moving and memorable book about family, friendship, passion, prejudice, secrets, betrayal and obsession among others. The author successfully depicts the events of the 1960s that reading the book feels more like traveling back in time of the John Kennedy assassination, the women’s liberation, the Robert Kennedy presidential campaign, the Vietnam War protests and the Kent State Massacre.
In addition to detailed descriptions of historical events, the author creates a set of well-developed and relatable characters as she highlights not only their strengths, talents and skills but also their flaws, pains and regrets making them just as human as the readers. Among several admirable characters, my favorite is Kate. She is smart, strong and independent with extraordinary self-control and exemplary moral values. Though she is far from saintly, she tries to do what is right not for herself but for the people she loves.
While the best part of the book, for me, is the very realistic depiction of life as the characters celebrate their triumphs and grieve for their losses, what I like most is the display of women empowerment as exhibited by Marian with her art, Alex with her music, Kate with her education, and Rose and Allison with their involvement.
Needless to say, I enjoyed this book a lot. However, there are several noticeable errors, mostly typos, within the entire book (like I glad he left it to you and I not surprised). If not for those, I could have easily given this book a perfect score.
I, therefore, rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is moving and memorable and I recommend it to readers who enjoy historical fiction. However, though I enjoyed reading it as a standalone, I still recommend that the series is read in proper order.
American River: Currents
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