River’s Song by Melody Carlson
The Inn at Shining Waters #1
Fiction – Christian, Historical (1959), Published August 2011
Read: August 2011, 274 pages
Sometimes when we look back, we are able to see ahead.
Following her mother’s funeral, and on the verge of her own midlife crisis, widow Anna Larson returns to the home of her youth to sort out her parents’ belongings, as well as her own turbulent life. For the first time since childhood, Anna embraces her native heritage, despite the disdain of her vicious mother-in-law. By transforming her old family home on the banks of Oregon’s Siuslaw River into The Inn at Shining Waters, Anna hopes to create a place of healing – a place where guests experience peace, grace, and new beginnings. Starting with her own family…
First Impressions (Out of all the books I have to read, why this one?):
I loved the idea that Anna was creating an inn out of her family home. I think this can bring in a lot of interesting characters. I love how she ending up decorating her inn. I love the lodge style a, like the lodges at Yellowstone or Grand Canyon National Parks, and have decorated my house that way, even though I live far from any moose and bears.
The story takes place in 1959 along Oregon’s Siuslaw River. Anna has just left her mother’s funeral and has come back to her childhood home to sort things out. She has inherited the home and land, but since she has not been home in a long time, does not really know the state of it or what she is going to do with it. Anna spends a few days recuperating and starting to enjoy the time away from her very demanding mother-in-law. Although Anna’s husband died from war wounds over 8 years ago, she and her daughter, Lauren, are still living with her mother-in-law, who treats Anna like a second class citizen because of her Indian heritage. Even though life on the river is not as convenient as that in the big city, the river life starts to heal Anna’s soul. The friends she finds on the river will forever change her river’s course.
Overall, I really enjoyed River’s Song. It definitely takes the reader back in time to a place that is slower paced and more calm and soothing, like the river. I loved the descriptions of the land and the river and enjoyed seeing Anna’s healing process. Anna truly finds herself there and becomes more confident and more authentic. The beginning of the book was a little slow and hard to get into, but once Hazel enters the picture, things on the Siuslaw River definitely start to liven up, as does Anna’s personality. It’s like she’s in a haze after her mother’s death and truly does not know where to turn or which direction to go, which is understandable once you find out how her home life has been for the last 20 years with Eunice, her mother-in-law and what she went through with her husband.
I absolutely adored Hazel and Babette, and even Henry’s characters and how they really become Anna’s family. I also loved learning about the history of the river and Anna’s grandmother. I really think you have to know where you’ve come from to know where you’re going and learning about family history is really interesting to me. When Hazel starts to translate Anna’s father’s notebook of Siuslaw stories, that is when Anna truly starts to appreciate everything her grandmother taught her a young girl.
The main reason this book is not a 4 or better for me is that the end, in general, was pretty rushed compared to the rest of the novel, which was more quiet and meandering. There were many allusions and a little bit of buildup to Anna and Clark’s relationship and how they felt about each other, but it felt to me like all of a sudden the river came to a narrow spot in it’s course and everything just came rushing through. I would have liked to see them “date” or at least flirt a little before suddenly deciding, “ok, yeah I guess I’ll marry you.” I think their relationship had a lot more potential and storyline before the marriage part.
A little note about the Christian aspect of the novel - I think it was well done. I like when it is subtle and not preaching in your face. As Anna heals on the river, her faith grows and she often remembers things her grandmother and mother would say about God and I think as she starts to pray and apply these teachings in her life, her sense of self grows and she becomes more at peace with herself. I really liked the teachings of forgiveness and weakness.
“When I am weak, I am strong.” The first time Anna heard it she’d been confused, asking what it meant. Grandma Pearl said the words were from God’s Book. “It means when I run out, when I am empty and weak, God can fill me. I must be empty first.” -p. 242
“Forgiveness is the sweet fragrance of violets on the heel that crushed them,” Mother would sometimes say with a twinkle in her eye as she arranged the delicate blooms in the tiny vase. -p. 244
In the next installment, River’s Call, I’m hoping to learn more about why Eunice is the way she is and see Lauren and Anna’s relationship grow. I also cannot wait to see the characters that come to stay at the Inn of Shining Waters. I hope one of them is Hazel!Thanks to Glass Road Public Relations for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.