River, Sing Out Cover

River, Sing Out

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Categories: Contemporary / Literary Fiction
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.”

River, Sing Out cover

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.

"And through these ages untold, the river did act as the lifeblood of all things alongside it."


“With echoes of Jim Harrison, Cormac McCarthy (and perhaps a smidge of Flannery O’Connor), River, Sing Out is a beautiful, brutal meditation on survival and love in the face of nearly unspeakable violence and depravity in an East Texas community ravaged by the meth trade. Taut, lyrical, and precise, the prose soars in this important new novel by James Wade.”
—Elizabeth Wetmore Mills, New York Times bestselling author of Valentine
“If you read one novel this year, make it this one. James Wade’s River, Sing Out, is an instant classic filled with characters that will break your heart, lyrical prose as haunted as the river it evokes, and a Southern Noir undertow that wholly sucks you in and keeps you turning the pages until it’s searing, masterful conclusion.”
—May Cobb, author of The Hunting Wives
“Wade, whose striking debut, All Things Left Wild (2020), traveled back a century in Texas history, uses an unlikely friendship to explore an equally wild present-day landscape…A haunting fable of an impossible relationship fueled by elemental need and despair.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Book Trailer

"If you read one novel this year, make it this one." -May Cobb, Author of The Hunting Wives


Clueless Gent’s Rating for River, Sing Out

5 star rating

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!

I received a free copy of River, Sing Out from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are my own.

Image of River, Sing Out cover presented on a tablet, smartphone and paperback.

the Author

James Wade Author Photo

James Wade lives and writes in the Texas Hill Country with his wife and daughter. He is the author of All Things Left Wild, which is a winner of the 2016 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, a winner of the 2021 Spur Award for Best Historical Fiction, and a winner of the 2021 Reading the West Award for Best Debut Novel. His fiction has appeared in various literary journals and magazines.

"A haunting fable." -Kirkus Reviews

Two winners each receive an autographed first-edition
hardcover copy of River, Sing Out
+ an autographed paperback copy of
multiple award-winning All Things Left Wild.
(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, June 18, 2021)
River, Sing Out tour giveaway graphic. Prizes to be awarded precede this image in the post text.
or visit the blogs directly:
6/8/21 Book Trailer Texas Book Lover
6/8/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
6/9/21 Review The Clueless Gent
6/9/21 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
6/10/21 Top Five All the Ups and Downs
6/10/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
6/11/21 Author Interview Book Fidelity
6/11/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
6/12/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
6/13/21 Excerpt Reading by Moonlight
6/14/21 Review That’s What She’s Reading
6/14/21 Audio Review Forgotten Winds
6/15/21 Review Book Bustle
6/16/21 Author Interview The Page Unbound
6/16/21 Review Librariel Book Adventures
6/17/21 Audio Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/17/21 Review Jennie Reads
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