River’s Song by Melody Carlson was sent to me as a review copy by Abingdon Press. It is the first in a new series by this author, the “Inn at Shining Waters” series.
The year is 1959, and Anna Gunderson, a widow, has lived with her daughter and her domineering mother-in-law since before her husband died. Little more than a servant, Anna has endured her life in her mother-in-law’s home without much complaint, thinking that she did not have a choice.
Then Anna finds herself travelling to her childhood home on the Siuslaw River in Oregon to pack up her deceased parents’ house and store. After being away for twenty years, much has changed on the river, which only makes Anna realize how much has changed in her own life.
The longer Anna remains on the river, the more she realizes how much she has missed. The Native American heritage that she left behind comes back to her in a great way as she works to make something out of her parents’ house and out of her own life. Anna hopes that opening The Inn at Shining Waters will help her – and others – to finding healing and peace in their lives.
If I had to choose one word to describe this novel, it would be “serene.” From the first page, the peacefulness and serenity of the river came through, so much so that I would catch myself getting a bit drowsy when I would read those descriptions! (This is a compliment, not that I was bored, but that I just felt very restful). The descriptions of the river and the surroundings, and even the recounting of the history of Anna’s family, were easy and relaxing to read.
The overall feel to the book was very smooth. The plot was straightforward, without a lot of twists and turns. While that would not be my first choice in a book (I usually like for my books to have a little more ‘adventure’ to them), I found this novel to be so unique that the lack of adventure didn’t bother me. The setting and time period were brand new to me, and the other characters were charming, which gave this book more of a spark than it might have had otherwise. The pacing was fairly steady, even though it did feel rushed towards the end.
Breaking the serenity and peacefulness of this book is the character of Anna’s mother-in-law. If ever there was a character you can love to hate, this is one. I was so upset with her that it was sometimes hard for me to read those scenes. I enjoyed the character of Anna when she was at home in her parents’ house on the river, but when she was with her mother-in-law, I didn’t like Anna very much, either. She was such a doormat and just a totally different person. Even though Anna’s mother-in-law was controlling and oppressive, I wonder why Anna didn't try to get away from her at any cost, especially since Anna’s daughter was involved.
I also was a little disappointed with the way the characters’ faith in God was handled in this novel. While I don’t expect every Christian novel I read to preach the gospel on every page, this one just seemed to gloss over too much. Anna goes through such a journey that it seemed as if more could have been said.
This novel has a ‘teaser chapter’ for the next book in this series at the end. It picks up right where this book leaves off, and this teaser did its job. I am looking forward to continuing with this series next year.
While dealing with some serious themes, River’s Song is serene, just like the river that helps Anna to heal and find peace.
I will give River’s Song … 3 ½ BookWorms.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."