Book Review: Go As a River by Shelley Read

About the Book:

On a cool autumn day in 1948, Victoria Nash delivers late-season peaches from her family’s farm set amid the wild beauty of Colorado. As she heads into her village, a dishevelled stranger stops to ask her the way. How she chooses to answer will unknowingly alter the course of both their young lives.

So begins the mesmerising story of split-second choices and courageous acts that propel Victoria away from the only home she has ever known and towards a reckoning with loss, hope and her own untapped strength.

Gathering all the pieces of her small and extraordinary existence, spinning through the eddies of desire, heartbreak and betrayal, she will arrive at a single rocky decision that will change her life for ever.

GO AS A RIVER is a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettable characters and a breath-taking natural setting, it is a sweeping story of survival and becoming, of the deepest mysteries of love, truth and fate.

Published by Penguin Random House Australia – Doubleday

Released 7 March 2023

My Thoughts:

Adorned with a beautiful cover and filled with lushly descriptive prose of the natural environment, Go As a River follows the life of one woman as she navigates through hardship and trauma in rural America from the 1940s through to the 1970s. The setting is stunning, the story is filled with heartbreak and hardship, the atmospheric prose flowing effortlessly almost in symmetry to the river analogy that is heavily threaded throughout the story.

‘Flowing forward against obstacle was not my whole story. For, like the river, I has also gathered along the way all the tiny pieces connecting me to everything else, and doing this had delivered me here, with two fists of forest soil in my palms and a heart still learning to be unafraid of itself. I had shaped my kindred – my lost family and lost love; my found friendships, though few; my trees that kept on living and every tree that gave me shelter; every creature I met along the way, every raindrop and snowflake choosing my shoulder, and every breeze that shifted the air; every winding path beneath my feet, every place I laid my hands and head, and every creek like the one before me, rolling off the hillside, gaining strength in gravity, spinning through the next eddy, pushing around the next bend, taking and giving in quiet agreement with every living thing.’

But…despite all of this beautiful prose and atmospheric meandering, I found this story lacking in so many ways. It wasn’t so much that there was no real plot, but more, I could see all of these plot points offered up where the author had the potential to dig deeper into an event or a character, and yet, she consistently chose to not engage with her own story. I had high expectations for this one, something on a level with Cold Mountain or Where the Crawdads Sing, but in the end, I was left wanting and wondering what all the fuss is about. Perhaps it would work better as movie. I have no doubt it will be picked up for development given the hype attached to it.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Go As a River by Shelley Read

    • No, I love a good novel set in the wilderness. I think it just didn’t fully know what it wanted to be. Nature story, story about lost motherhood, story about grief, story about a lost town…etc. It was neither here nor there to me.
      You’re off the hook, city rat! 😁


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