An engrossing debut memoir from 40-something Goyen, a Texas wife and mother.
Goyen opens with a brief discussion about her suffering from chronic anxiety attacks in childhood and beyond and how she learned to cope. Then, before returning to that subject, she shares thoughts and ordinary experiences that came with being a parent (or in her case, fear of never being a mother) and stories from what she describes as her family’s normal, typical middle-American life. “You might be a lot like us,” she tells her readers. The most gripping section (and the longest) describes a gradually escalating medical issue that arose when the couple thought their problems were solved. Although Goyen had a stillborn child, she and her husband finally had two sons (born 19 months apart). Their happiness felt complete. Trouble returned when the youngest, 7-year-old Blake, fell deathly ill with mysterious symptoms. For months, while they went from doctor to doctor, taking him to the hospital (sometimes to the ER) for diagnoses and treatments, their happy life became a nightmare, and their faith was tested. The author’s detailed account reads almost like a detective story about a child and his family held hostage by illness. It’s easy to empathize and care with Goyen, and her chatty, confiding, openness as a writer makes her seem like a friend. Fans of Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, 1993) will recognize and appreciate a similar sense of authorial immediacy. Goyen conveys with lyric beauty how faith in God, love for her husband and devotion to her sons now guides her response to tragedy and her approach to life. The “river” in the title refers to the family’s favorite vacation spot in Red River, New Mexico, a place that “flowed straight to my soul like a river through my heart,” but it’s easy to feel that the real river she cherishes is that of God’s love.

A child’s illness becomes the focal point for a riveting true-life drama.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484912393

Page Count: 214

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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