I had no idea what The River by Michael Neale was about but was compelled to read it by the tagline. “The River is changing lives…Will you let it change yours?” Oooooh.
In The River we meet young Gabriel Clarke who takes the tragedy of his past with him wherever he goes. Actually, all the wrong in his life defines him and he refuses to accept the love and help of others. Until…(duh duh duh) he meets Tabitha who helps Gabriel break out of his shell and discover who he is meant to become.
It was OK.
The River is actually the central character in the book. It calls to Gabriel and everyone who interacts with The River (always The River…why not just the river? That got old fast) is obsessed with it. I read so many variations of “we were made for the river” I wanted to bang my head against the wall. I KNOW YOU WERE MADE FOR THE RIVER, TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW!
But I shouldn’t be so tough on the story—it’s a first effort by songwriter Michael Neale and doing quite well on the CBA (Christian Bookseller Association) charts, which I’ve heard is kind of a big deal for inspirational writers.
And I think there is a promising story in here. It’s just you have to work so hard to find it
After some reflection I’ve determined the main problem is the story is unbalanced. It spends the first half leading up to WHY Gabriel is so burdened and the second half reminding us that he’s burdened. By the time we actually get to the point of the story, we run out of pages.
It could have been SO much better. And about 50 pages shorter. No, scratch that. Take 50 pages off the first part (bo-ring) and add 50 pages to the end. Tell me how things end up. How does Gabriel get on? And does he completely abandon his family like it sounds like he does? For a girl? And a river? I’d like some closure on that one because the kid seems like a nice guy but I’m not cool with ditching out on responsibilities to go white water rafting. Analogy or no.
Oh. And about the analogy? I GET IT ALREADY. It not only walked on all fours, it punched me in the face. Nope, didn’t miss it.
And yet, I’m giving this story three out of five. Because it made me cry. So Neale did something right.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review (obviously). Although they are threatening to freeze my account if I don’t write more book reviews.