Book Review and Giveaway: River, Sing Out by James Wade | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

RIVER, SING OUT

BY
JAMES WADE
Categories: Contemporary / Literary Fiction
Rural Fiction / Crime Fiction / Coming-of-Age
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

”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, 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

River, Sing Out is set in fictional Neches County, Texas, in the East Texas bottomland. It’s a hardscrabble existence for many folks, and Jonah Hargrove is no exception. His father works on an oil rig, so the days he’s gone on the job are days Jonah doesn’t have to duck his blows. In spite of his seemingly bleak existence, though, Jonah has a good heart. So when River, a teenage girl, stumbles into his sphere, injured and running scared after stealing a backpack full of meth from local drug lord John Curtis, Jonah feels like he should help her.

This book is a fascinating contrast. On the one hand, you’ve got the violent life of the drug trade and the grinding poverty in which Jonah lives. On the other, you’ve got the author’s lyrical turns of phrase like, “That night he dreamt the earth was water alone and he floated atop it and from the center of the endless sea rose enormous a single oak and upon its bark and branches clung thousands of gray and green tree frogs and none moving or trilling yet all somehow calling to him and the boy spoke in a voice they understood.” As an editor and proofreader, that really, really long sentence makes me a little crazy. But what amazing imagery. Can’t you just see that lone oak in your mind’s eye? The book is full of vivid, musical word pictures that make you feel almost like you’re right there with Jonah and River.

As the title would suggest, the river is an important part of the story. It offers Jonah and River shelter and a means of escape at times. It rises and falls, and sometimes floods, bringing destruction as the waters crest and then recede. The river may not be alive in the sense of a sentient existence, but it has its mysteries and changes and moods, much like a person would.

Ultimately, I thought the book was about the resilience of the human spirit and the struggle to maintain faith, even in the face of indifferent nature and the sometimes brutal realities of life. And here, it felt like indifferent nature maybe cared just a little, that nature thought it time to wash a few old wounds clean, and perhaps make room for, if not complete healing, then at least growth. Given the difficult subject matter, it wasn’t always an easy read, but it’s a story I’m glad I read.

Five stars that will shine for as long as the river rolls.

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.

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GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
TWO WINNERS
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)
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1 Response to Book Review and Giveaway: River, Sing Out by James Wade | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

  1. Wow! What an insightful review of what sounds like a thought-provoking story. I look forward to reading it with my ears. Thanks for the post!

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