“Just as a single rainstorm can erode the banks and change the course of a river, so can a single circumstance of a girl’s life erase who she was before.” Shelley Read, Go as a River.
At the tender age of twelve, Victoria Nash finds herself thrust into a world of loss and responsibility. Her mother, aunt, and cherished cousin tragically die in an auto accident, leaving Torie to shoulder the household duties for her father, angry brother, and an embittered war-wounded uncle confined to a wheelchair. They live on a flourishing peach farm nestled in the very real town of Iola, Colorado, near the serene Gunnison River.
Torie’s existence becomes a relentless cycle of work, sleep, and little else; a stark reality for a teenager burdened by grown-up expectations. “The men expected me to slip silently into her role—to cook their meals, clean their pee off the toilet, wash and hang their soiled clothes, and tend to every last thing in the house and the coops and the garden.”
On a crisp autumn day in 1948, Torie’s life takes an unexpected turn. The 17-year-old delivers late-season peaches to a nearby village and meets Wilson Moon, a Native American who has left his tribe. Their love is an affront to the community and Victoria’s own family, forcing them to conceal their relationship.
When Victoria discovers she is pregnant, she flees to the unforgiving wilderness to give birth. Her solitary struggle and profound loneliness in the wild tugged at my heartstrings. The poignant narrative spans decades, narrated in Torie’s retrospective first-person voice. Her strength and resilience shine through, making her an inspiring protagonist.
The history of Iola adds to the story, especially when the town was intentionally flooded during the building of the Blue Mesa Reservoir. (Check out this informative piece: https://coloradosun.com/2018/12/10/iola-blue-mesa-reservoir-drought/)
Go as a River is a gut-wrenching coming-of-age saga that weaves together eloquent prose, indelible characters, and a vivid natural setting. It’s a story that delves deep into themes of friendship, love, and transformation, brimming with wisdom and an unquenchable yearning. I was deeply moved.
Shelley Read’s debut novel is a testament to her exceptional writing talent. I can’t wait to see what comes next. This is really a special book and earns a solid 5 stars.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.