The River Within by Baxter Clare Trautman

The River Within

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An unconventional flirtation upends the lives of three women.

Trautman’s (Spirit of the Valley, 1998, etc.) fascinating heroine, Greer Madison, has forged a legendary career as a foreign correspondent in Russia and the Middle East—dodging bullets, drinking hard, chasing women and loving every minute of it. But now, “pushing fifty and nursing her third concussion,” Greer is tortured by guilt over the death of a young photographer she’d been wooing. She returns to California to recuperate at the home of old friends Doug and Darlene Richardson, who are dealing with their own grief at having lost a son in Iraq. Hard-living, openly gay Greer and reserved, traditional Darlene make an odd pair, but their friendship has spanned almost 30 years. This visit is different; Darlene refuses to discuss Chris, even with Doug or their daughter, Kate, and throws herself obsessively into homemaking and planning Kate’s upcoming wedding. Only Greer knows that Darlene is hiding the disturbing circumstances of Chris’ death from her family, a secret that consumes Darlene and threatens her marriage. Greer, pushed away by Darlene, becomes close with Kate, whose fascination with Greer’s adventurous life slowly reveals her ambivalence about the safe path she has chosen. The growing intimacy between Kate and Greer upsets the equilibrium of all three women and each is pushed to confront painful truths. Unfortunately, the emotional impact of these revelations is often dulled by the characters’ tendency to voice their feelings in platitudes and predictable metaphors. The shared love of modern poetry and penchant for quoting T.S. Eliot that connects the women only underscores Kate’s valley girl diction and Greer’s trite aphorisms. Chris’ letters home, which Darlene obsessively rereads, are similarly unsatisfying. As much of the book’s narrative is conveyed through letters and conversations, this leads to a flatness that is at odds with its dramatic subject matter. This is a shame, because the well-constructed plot is full of real surprises.

A fresh story weighed down by stale writing.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0984850815
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Baxter Clare Trautman
Program: Kirkus Indie
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