Book Review: River Talk

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Thank you to Netgalley and C&R Press for allowing me to read River Talk. I’ve been on a bit of a short story kick this year, and many of this year’s published collections have been wonderful. River Talk easily joins this “club wonderful”. The stories in this collection make for greatly satisfying reading. Initially, I was hesitant to read this collection from the Maine native CB Anderson, as I’ve boasted before that the Canadians have this genre down solid and triumph over all other collections. I’ve previously read collections from authors outside Canada and have never come away very satisfied. Rest assure however, River Talk is an outstanding collection and one that Kirkus has said is a “a triumphant, probing debut.”

China Falls: gives us a decidedly strong start The main character is a single mother left to care for her severely autistic son and teenaged daughter. She spends most of her time imagining a life without her son this story is written in a real, true and heartfelt way. With this strong start I was eagerly anticipating the next in the bunch!

Pipe: uh oh, what happened here? Did a story get in without ensuring it was completely finished? Pipe is only a few paragraphs long, is about a female pipe fitter, and ends really before it truly begins.

Taken: I’m starting to get lost here. I don’t understand where it’s going or what it’s about at the start…talk of elk, bears and deer — revealed as a taxidermist. And then…wait for it, wait for it… because it’s all good. Michael (Buzz), his brother Sheridan (Sher) and the woman Sher has dumped but is now staying with Buzz, blossoms into sibling rivalry, fighting for the same woman and packs a powerful ending. I was back in to it.

Slipjack: Let’s skip ahead six stories to Slipjack….the best of the bunch? For me, it was a remarkably powerful read. Claire and Nora’s father served in the Korean War. However, growing up there were two things they were always warned not to do: Do not touch your father when he is asleep and Do not talk about the war. Now, Reed, their father, is telling the stories like water gushing from the tap. Claire wonders if it’s because “If I tell you this, then you will understand the rest.” It was a story I wanted to settle in with and read more of.

Everything: A two page story that will hit you like a ton of bricks. All kinds of emotion packed in to those few little paragraphs. Perhaps one of my favourites in this collection.

And then River Talk happened. Here is another strong story, packed with all kinds of goodness. Ena is remembering a time when she was fourteen and a new family moved in across the street, recounting her story to her fiancé Jack. She would babysit the two kids and their father stayed home most times to work in the barn. All I’m sharing about this one kids. It’s really good though, again, another favourite of the bunch.

Two Falls: and the hits keep on coming! This was a wonderful, wonderful story. Amina and her husband have escaped the violence and tragedy in Somalia to settle in Two Falls, Maine. A fantastic story told from the point of view from Amina, of the changes and new experiences she experiences in this vastly different new world. Really loved this one too.

River Talk is a collection of seventeen stories, each vastly different from each other, but all considerably well done and many of them I’m certain will endear themselves to you as much as they did for me. 4 stars = excellent.

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