About the Book:
"It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land."
Following years of catastrophic hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—stretching from the Florida panhandle to the western Louisiana border—has been brought to its knees. The region is so punished and depleted that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules.
Cohen is one who stayed. Unable to overcome the crushing loss of his wife and unborn child who were killed during an evacuation, he returned home to Mississippi to bury them on family land. Until now he hasn’t had the strength to leave them behind, even to save himself.
But after his home is ransacked and all of his carefully accumulated supplies stolen, Cohen is finally forced from his shelter. On the road north, he encounters a colony of survivors led by a fanatical, snake-handling preacher named Aggie who has dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region.
Realizing what’s in store for the women Aggie is holding against their will, Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman’s captives across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down—and Cohen harboring a secret that may pose the greatest threat of all.
Eerily prophetic in its depiction of a southern landscape ravaged by extreme weather, Rivers is a masterful tale of survival and redemption in a world where the next devastating storm is never far behind.
There was one reason and one reason only I ever selected this book--it is the book for the Common Reading Initiative at my alma mater, Mississippi University for Women, and I was curious about it. The reason I say that is because I didn't like the book but I'm perfectly willing to admit that my love of happy endings and pleasant plots (you don't see any horror reviewed here, or murder mysteries or too many other books that are filled with death, blood or gore) may be the reason.
Two words that come to mind when describing the book are "wet" and "gray". It rained all the time, a heavy driving rain, and then wind blew. There was no let up. There had been no let up for weeks, as noted above. Many of the characters smoke, and smoke frequently, adding to the gray aura. While there are a few bad guys in the book, most of the people are gray--they do bad things but aren't evil people; deep down, they are just trying to survive.
I will say that the writing is well-done. The language itself paints pictures as vivid as photographs. Michael Farris Smith is clearly a gifted writer; I just don't happen to like this story. I like sunshine and happy endings and this book had neither. You can sample Smith's writing in this New York Times article.
I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available on NetGalley. Grade: C (A book I didn't care for, usually for a stated reason, but which you might like.)