Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kimberly Brock's The River Witch Charms Me (And Possibly a Few Alligators)

Kimberly Brock's The River Witch begins with the death of an unborn child, a circumstance which almost caused me to abandon it completely. Although most definitely a part of life, it was an event this mama-to-be couldn't handle contemplating, even in a work of fiction.

But a day or two later, I found myself thinking about main characters Damascus and Roslyn -- while at work, while driving, while shopping for groceries. I don't know how you judge a book; perhaps strictly on its literary merit, perhaps on its descriptions, or maybe largely on the buzz it has been creating. The moment I know I've found a book worth reading is when I find it creeping up during my day, in my non-reading hours. 

Roslyn, a former professional ballerina, has fled her life to spend the summer on a fictional Georgia barrier sea island. Roslyn is rough around the edges, close to no one, and a bit difficult to find sympathetic in the beginning. After she has a disturbing reaction to the end of her pregnancy, I found it difficult to like her. That didn't, however, mean I didn't wonder what would happen to her next. (And it also doesn't mean I didn't eventually grow to understand and like her as a character -- I did.)

Damascus, on the other hand, steals the reader's heart immediately. Wild as the island on which she lives, Damascus is a ten-year-old almost-orphan whose mother died long ago and whose father largely leaves her raising up to others. When Roslyn rents her family's house on Manny's Island, Damascus is instantly drawn to her. Fearful of connecting with anyone, Damascus longs for her mother -- and resents Roslyn for occupying her family's space.

Despite her unhappiness with the new tenant in her ancestral home, Damascus can't seem to stay away. She and Roslyn form a tenuous bond which holds the book together. The growth of their relationship and its effect on each party is the true meat of the novel. Both Roslyn and Damascus have been searching for something unnamed, and bit by bit they help each other work towards their unspoken goals.

Brock peoples her novel with characters as alive as the island itself. The island teems with alligators bellowing, birds soaring, and a population of island natives as strange and magnificent as their environment. Urey, Damascus's father, embodies the wildness of the island. His sister Ivy struggles with her devotion to island and family coupled with a desperate want to explore the mainland. A bevy of locals who practice or believe in hoodoo also make life complicated for Roslyn during her stay on the island, enriching The River Witch in the process.

The River Witch is Kimberly Brock's debut novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Summer in Mossy Creek and will be published in the upcoming Sweeter Than Tea. You can keep up with her on Facebook, on Twitter, or on her website. An excerpt of the first two chapters of the novel can be read here.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting read, thanks for the review. Also following this blog now, so will check it out from time to time.

    Also, what do you think of my cover for my book, would love your thoughts...

    Thank you.



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