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Debut literary novel by a South Dakotan teacher. The River Warren resists description. The river of the title no longer exists, but once surged as a vast tributary of an incredible mile-high glacier that covered much of the Dakotas and Canada and left a lake that makes Superior look like a puddle. With a sort of poetic justice, the community of Cloten, South Dakota, draws on its own vast night-river of gossip, half-truths, and memories in order to fathom the quite unbelievable murder/suicide enacted by Two-Speed Crandall. Crandall, easily Cloten’s most outstanding eccentric, has promised his wife, LouAnn, that he—ll perform an act never to be forgotten by the town. So Two-Speed cranks up his semitrailer, which is loaded to the siderails with Leo Gruber’s cattle, starts accelerating downhill (having deliberately ruined his brakes, to insure disaster to come), with his wife beside him praying that he stop, and roars at top speed straight into Cloten’s downtown, demolishing several cars, the hardware store, the bank, and the barber shop before coming to a halt in Angel Finn’s, both dead, and with most of Gruber’s cattle dead as well. Analyzing this freighted event requires interior monologues from about ten townsfolk, including Two-Speed’s brilliant but disaffected son, Luke, whose best friend, Jeff Gruber, is in love with Luke’s pregnant wife, Ellen. Did the horror have something to do with nine-year-old Chris Gruber’s demise when a tractor fell over on him? Or had Two-Speed a bizarre sexual guilt that focused on retarded Pop Bottle Pete, whose stream-of-consciousness mimics the idiot Benjy’s in The Sound and the Fury? A muddy, turbulent tale filled nonetheless with strong moments and singing sparks, especially about farming on buried glacial rock.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-886913-23-4
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Ruminator Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998


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