RIVER, SING OUT
Rural Fiction / Crime Fiction / Coming-of-Age
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
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Date of Publication: June 8, 2021
Number of Pages: 315 pages
“And through these ages untold, the river did act as the lifeblood of all those things alongside it.”
Jonah Hargrove is celebrating his thirteenth birthday by avoiding his abusive father, when a girl named River stumbles into his yard, injured and alone. The teenager has stolen thousands of dollars’ worth of meth from her murderous, drug-dealing boyfriend, but lost it somewhere in the Neches River bottoms during her escape. Jonah agrees to help her find and sell the drugs so she can flee East Texas.
Chasing after them is John Curtis, a local drug kingpin and dog fighter, as well as River’s boyfriend, the dangerous Dakota Cade.
Each person is keeping secrets from the others—deadly secrets that will be exposed in violent fashion as all are forced to come to terms with their choices, their circumstances, and their own definition of God.
With a colorful cast of supporting characters and an unflinching violence juxtaposed against lyrical prose, River, Sing Out dives deep into the sinister world of the East Texas river bottoms, where oppressive poverty is pitted against the need to believe in something greater than the self.
PRAISE FOR RIVER, SING OUT
Clueless Gent’s Rating for River, Sing Out
As soon as I finished reading River, Sing Out, I sat there completely awash in the journey I just took. The end is as the beginning, and the beginning is as the end. And for this reader, the bar for poetic prose excellence was just raised to heights unknown.
Describing this story, or even the style of this story, is going to be difficult. I can still feel the story as much as I can feel my most vivid dream. But trying to describe it? I’ll do my best.
The storyline is complex simplicity. The story follows Jonah, a teen in East Texas. The time is the year of record rainfall and flooding. Jonah lives in a trailer out in the boonies near the river – the Neches River – with his father, an oil rigger. His father is gone to work for weeks at a time, leaving Jonah on his own.
One day, a twenty-something woman, River – she called herself, happens upon Jonah’s trailer. She is running for her life from drug runners. Jonah ultimately makes it his mission to keep River safe.
The two plot lines – one being Jonah and the other being the drug runners – are apparent from the very beginning. They stay separate for most of the story, except for a few quick skirmishes when they intersect, but finally come fully together in the climax.
The river is like a mysterious character in the story. We know it’s there, but what lurks above or below it remains in darkness until the story is ready to reveal it.
“He looked to the river and could feel there all the souls who’d passed by and passed on, each blending into the other and existing vague and veiled, as if the spirit of this place was a forgotten dream come calling.”
What really impressed me in this book is how James Wade told the story. The whole story reads almost like poetry. If it is possible for a book to have feng shui – as in the balance of yin and yang – it would have to be this book. Practically every paragraph seems to be balanced in some type of perfect way. I can just imagine author James Wade jumbling the words of a paragraph in his mind, teasing the words and the meanings until they are all perfectly blended and balanced. I don’t know how else to describe it.
This story is not just a story to be read. It is a story to be experienced. By the time you’re finished reading, you will indeed feel the humidity of the Texas heat as rain comes and goes, yet the heat remains. You will feel the mud of the river between your toes. You will hear the raindrops on a tin roof. This author knows how to open a reader’s being and flood it with description that plucks on the senses like a harpist plucks the strings, and also fills the void with an abundance of so many emotions.
The imagery used is just stellar. “The old man watched a memory as it bobbed atop the surface of the river then disappeared.” If I provided all of these examples, I’d pretty much be giving you the entire story.
Technically, the book sits on a high shelf with few peers. The pacing of the story is slow and deliberate, like the current of the river. But it never stalls. The character arcs are also slow to form, but form they do. The editing is flawless.
Although this is the first book by James Wade that I’ve read, he has immediately become one of my favorite and most respected authors.
If you believe in the magic of the written word and what can become of it, you need to read this story. You need to read this author. You will enjoy both very much!
hardcover copy of River, Sing Out
+ an autographed paperback copy of
multiple award-winning All Things Left Wild.
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