After River


Author: Donna Milner

Published: 2008

Genre: Fiction

About: Hiring an American draft dodger to help out on the farm has long-lasting effects for a close-knit British Columbia family.

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Review of After River

Natalie Ward lives with her family on a dairy farm in the Cascade Mountains. Her handsome father is the town's milkman and her beautiful mother is loving and devout. Of her three brothers, Natalie feels closest to Boyer, the oldest. She idolizes him and he teaches her to appreciate words and language and books. In the summer of 1966, just before Natalie's fifteenth birthday, a young American is hired to work on the Ward farm.

The stranger smiled as Mom opened the gate, a smile that crinkled into premature crow's feet around those aquamarine eyes. He set his guitar case down, shrugged the canvas bag from his shoulder, then held his hand out. "Good afternoon, ma'am," he said, the 'a' in ma'am stretching out with a hint of a drawl.

"Nettie," Mom smiled back and took his hand. "You can call me Nettie."

"Nettie," he repeated. Her name slipped from his lips and into the air between us. It came as so much more than a word. It came soft and warm, a musical tone.

"And you must be Richard Jordan," Mom said, her hand still resting in his.

"River," he said. "My friends call me River."

...from page 37

Many years later, Natalie is married for the third time and estranged from her family when she gets a call from Boyer, telling her that their mother is dying. On the long bus ride home, she remembers the events that tore her seemingly perfect family apart.

The story was good and went in directions I didn't expect. The characters were interesting, especially Natalie who felt honest and real. The sense of time was good and the sense of place was even better. It was easy to visualize the Watt farm, the surrounding mountains, the rose garden, the nearby small town of Atwood. Waiting to find out why Natalie couldn't bear to be around her family kept me reading much longer than I normally would and the ending was touching and satisfying. After River reminded me strongly of Crow Lake at the beginning although the similarities became less noticeable as the book progressed. However, fans of Crow Lake, especially those who liked the feel of the story, will most likely enjoy this book, too. I certainly did.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 14 May 2008 from the hardcover edition, provided by HarperCollins Canada.

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More Reviews

Ragdoll, My Tragic Right Hip, 18 February 2008
“The prose isn't perfect, and there are first-novel moments all over the book, tired descriptions and worn out metaphors, but none of that matters by the end...”
Luanne, A Bookworm's World, 31 March 2008
“Milner's writing is quite simply, beautiful.”
‘Family betrayal saga has gripping storyline.’ Kathryne Kouk, 13 April 2008
“...its nearly flawless prose and gripping storyline ensure this was a career change well worth making.”
Aarti Vaid, 19 April 2008
“After River tries very hard to be topical, intriguing and liberal. Unfortunately, it tries a little too hard.”


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Added 14 May 2008.
Updated 23 August 2013.