Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review for "The River" by Michael Neale

After reading some great reviews of this book I was eager to begin. However, I finished with disappointment. It was a nice story, but it didn't touch me. It was entertaining and easy to read but was predictable and lacked profundity. It is what it is - a novel for mass consumption with a clean and appealing story. The story relates the experiences of young Gabriel Clarke, who must overcome his fears which stem from a tragic incident as a young child. Leaving "the River," which was the scene of the incident, Gabe's life takees a 90 degree turn as he moves to Kansas and lives out his childhood struggling to gain his confidence and get past his fears. Through a summer camp kind of experience, Gabe returns to "the River," meets a girl (of course), faces his fears, and hears the call to a life of more scope and confidence. It is a story of forgiveness as well as overcoming fear. I found the characters one-dimensional, with the exception of Gabe himself. They served their purpose in the plot, that is all. They were a little "too good to be believed" - the attractive girl who picked the shy boy and brought him out of his shell, putting up with all his behavior; the older mentor who happens to also be a great cook, play Gabe's favorite game, know Gabe's family, never get angry, appears at just the right times. There were several elements of the story that I thought were never fully developed: the mysterious stranger who sold marbles, the red-tailed hawk, the marble he bought and kept losing. The most disappointing aspect of the book was that I felt the end was rushed and the most significant conflict was fully solved within the span of a few hours. After taking the whole book to describe Gabe's complex and deep issues, this ending felt unrealistic and trite. Still, all in all, it was not a bad read - just not great literature. Enjoy it for what it is. I received this book on a complimentary basis for purposes of review from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of the BookSneeze program.