I started reading River Rising, by Athol Dickson, last night. Wow! This is an excellent book. I'll probably write a longer post about this book after I finish it, but I wanted to share some initial impressions.
I wasn't sure what to expect -- I'd read enough about it to know that it's set in Louisiana at the time of the 1927 Mississippi River flood and that it dealt with race issues.
And it is all those things, but this is storytelling that goes deep. I have to admit as I started reading that I wondered if it would be a book that lived up to the hype. Dickson's prose isn't as lyrical as Marilynn Robinson's (but whose is?) or Lief Enger's. If fact, it seemed a little detached -- he uses an omniscient narrative voice, so I didn't feel like I was in the characters' heads.
But that narrative technique serves the story well, because as the story delves deeper into the mysteries that surround Hale Poser (the main character) and the little community of Pilotville, the narration zooms in closer to the characters. It turns out to be effective -- I couldn't put the book down last night and kept reading way past my usual lights-out time.
This is a Christian novel, published by Bethany House, but if you've avoided Christian fiction for a long time, you should make an exception for River Rising. Faith is integral to the story -- not tacked on to make an evangelistic point. Its expressions (and lack of expressions) arise from who the characters are.
I'm about halfway through (I told you I read late last night and it's not really dense prose) and I'm not going to give anything away, but I will say there are twists and turns in this story I did not see coming. And there's darkness, too, befitting a story set in the swamps of the Mississippi Delta. But there's also hope. I have no idea how it's going to end -- something I haven't been able to say about a book for a long time -- but I can't wait to finish it.