Friday, October 26, 2007

The River King, by Alice Hoffman

(hb; 2000)

From the inside flap:

"For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if by a line drawn down the center of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the village from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. But one October night, after an inexplicable death, the two worlds are thrust together, and the town's divided history is revealed in all its complexity. The lives of everyone involved are unraveled: from Carlin Leander, the fifteen-year old who is as loyal as she is proud, to Betsy Chase, a woman running from her own destiny; from August Pierce, a boy who unexpectedly finds courage in his darkest hour, to Abel Grey, the police officer who refuses to let unspeakable actions -- both past and present -- slide by without notice..."


Elegant, quiet, visually delicate yet enduring -- these words describe Hoffman's prose as she unveils the secret longings and wounds of her characters, from Harry McKenna, the rich handsome boy who's a charming sexual predator (in the barely acceptable social sense) to Abel Grey, a cop whose intentions to right past and present wrongs often cause him to publicly stumble.

This is one of the most beautiful and sympathetic (in terms of dealing with flawed humanity) books I've read in a long while. The imagery and symbolism are memorable and reinforced by the storyline and characters' actions, the flow feels naturally smooth, like the seasons the novel spans: in short, you should check this book out.


This became a film in 2005. Edward Burns played Abel Grey. John Kapelos played Joey Tosh. Thomas Gibson played August "Gus" Pierce. Jennifer Ehle played Betsy Chase. Rachelle Lefevre played Carlin Leander. Nick Willing directed.

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