River People by Margaret Lukas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“This ain’t your home no more.” The young Effie was sent away in marriage with Rev Jackdaw by her father, in a time when girls could get married at the age of ten, just by lifting a Bible. After a grueling trip, she was left alone with Bridget, or Rooster as the reverend calls her. Guilt feelings about Bay Sally’s death kept her from loving Bridget.
It is a story of suppression, patriarchy, prejudice, perceptions, hopes, dreams and broken promises – Rev Jackdaw se vision of his own Missionary in Omaha, Mae who was traded at eight for a gallon of whiskey with the promise of a new dress, Bridget who lived for the day Mum and Pappy came for her and Effie who dreams of a house and a family.
At first Chief is the only good person around, fighting off his own demons at night. Yet Effie avoids him at all cost with her own prejudice. Effie never really learns to accept kindness, and her heart never really softened up to Bridget, who mostly acted as the adult. Being the main character, the reader keeps on hoping for a bit of character development.
In places Effie’s voice become muddled with the narrator’s, as if she is just too wise for a girl her age, given her upbringing and social isolation. However, she also was confused enough to be totally incompetent and without any social skills most of the time.
Bridget’s brother Rowan told her that her Mum is a Selkie, and that all water, rivers and streams are connected. Clinging to her grandma Teegan’s braid and the mythical Nera kept her going, always hoping to be reunited with her mum and her pappy.
Bridget is a clever one, who despite her circumstances, wants to become a doctor. Interesting analogy because she acts as a literary archetype of the child savior, through whom others found their truth and worth, helping them heal their own wounds.
Words and phrases put you right in the era where the story belongs. Neatly done and very convincing.
This is a gripping novel in the historical fiction genre, with truly unforgettable characters.
View all my reviews