Heart wrenching and beautifully written, Go As A River is a poignant debut story about love sacrifice and having a deep well of resilience.
Go As A River contains all the elements of a thrilling Western – the frontier, the wild west, love, violence, and adventure- but at its heart it is an engrossing love story and as female centric as John Wayne is male. In her elegant first novel author Shelley Read sets the story in 1948 in a small community of Iola in the state of Colorado. Seventeen year old Victoria Nash lives on a peach orchard with her father, an embittered war veteran uncle and her deeply vengeful brother.
When Victoria was 12 she lost the only women in her life – her mother and aunt, and a beloved cousin in a car accident. Burying her grief in the manner of the repressed men around her, she comes of age in a male dominated household accepting her role as the replacement housekeeper – cooking the meals, cleaning and washing the clothes as well as doing her work in the orchard but only two pages into this novel her whole world changes when by chance she encounters a young man passing through town with a dazzling smile, straight black hair, gentle eyes and tan skin. Sadly the same set of anatomical characteristics make the toxic townsfolk spit the word “injun’ and kick him from their midst.
Against a backdrop of prejudice and intolerance and small minded ‘frontier’ mentality a love story blooms of the most heart pressing kind. It is the catalyst for change in a life that seemed unalterable.
With astonishing precision Read narrates the agony and the resolve of one woman’s plight in the wilderness and landscape of her homeland. Her eye for descriptions of the dazzling assortment of ecosystems is gorgeous- Bald Eagles, American Dippers flit through the pages as the reader is taken deep into the river beds and into the alpine forests of a country she knows so well.
Butterflies, guinea hens, dogs and horses are a necessary counterpart to the harsh and hateful ways of some of the worst of humankind and Read’s natural affinity with nature is beautifully illustrated. Though we long for retribution or revenge for a scene in the novel so shocking that we turn the pages compulsively we find in the ending a satisfying showdown that tells you love is the ultimate redeemer and healer.
Read this for pure escapism of the truly romantic kind, for the notion that there is personal justice outside the courts, and for the idea that you are bound to no one other than the ones who truly love you.