Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: INTO THIS RIVER I DROWN by TJ Klune

Five years ago, Benji Green lost his beloved father, Big Eddie, when his truck crashed into a river. Everyone called it an accident, but Benji knows it was more. Even years later, he’s buried in his grief, throwing himself into managing Big Eddie’s convenience store in the small-town of Roseland, Oregon. Surrounded by his mother and three aunts, he lives day to day, struggling to keep his head above water.

But Roseland is no ordinary place.


With ever more frequent dreams of his father’s death and waking visions of feathers on the river’s surface, Benji finds his definition of reality bending. He thinks himself haunted; by ghosts or memories, he can no longer tell. Not until a man falls from the sky, leaving the burning imprint of wings on the ground, does Benji begin to understand that the world is more mysterious than he ever imagined—and more dangerous. As uncontrollable forces descend on Roseland, they reveal long-hidden truths about friends, family, and the stranger Calliel—a man Benji can no longer live without.

(Amazon description)



Wow. Just...wow.

I loved this book so much that I almost don’t know where to start. Usually, when I write a book review, I focus on plot and character, but the striking thing about Into This River I Drown is the writing itself. I read one of TJ Klune’s other books a while back, and I liked it well enough, but it didn’t take my breath away this one did. The language is almost poetic. The words curl their way into a reader’s heart and wring out every emotion until you are left completely spent. Klune’s use of repetition is interesting. Normally, I find that annoying, but somehow here it works.

Symbolism and imagery are heavy in the book, but I’m not going to get into that or this review will end up long enough to bust into chapters. Let’s just say, as an author myself, I am in complete literary awe.

As for the characters... Benji was well-developed and interesting. He had an almost hero-worship relationship with his father, Big Eddie, and has never been able to move on after his death.  Benji remembers his father as an almost mythically perfect being, almost like a very young child feels about their parents before they are old enough to see their flaws. The side characters perpetuate Benji’s exalted opinions by constantly talking about how perfect Big Eddie was. At the time of this story, Big Eddie has been dead for five years, so I assume Benji had a more realistic opinion of his dad back when he was alive. And while this hero-worship thing gets to be a little much after a while, it really clues the reader in to Benji’s fragile emotional stability.

I don’t want to say too much about Calliel, because I don’t want to give anything away, but I found him quirky and endearing. I understood why he and Benji felt so much for each other, but even at the end of the book, I feel like I only know him about 95%. There is still the hint of mystery about him. Not that I think there will be a sequel, this appears to be a standalone novel, but this mystery left me still thinking about the book after I finished reading. That’s a good thing.

The book is filled with wonderful supporting characters who often defy stereotypes. Benji’s Aunt Nina was the perfect mix of loving and spooky. She has a mild form of Downs, so people may write her up, but she sees the world like a prophetess, wise and mystical. Abraham Dufree is a senior citizen and Benji’s only friend. Like Nina, people may dismiss an elderly man, but Abraham turns out to be tough as nails. The older woman who runs the local diner carries a shotgun and isn’t afraid to use it.

The plot of the story does have a few pacing issues, but it never gets too bogged down. It basically revolves around Benji trying to unravel who killed Big Eddie, but there are several sub-plots to layer on interest. There are “bad guys” who are obvious bad guys, but then there is a twist to the mystery at the end to take a reader by surprise.

Overall, I give Into This River I Drown....

Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Mystery - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Paranormal Elements - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Love Story - 5 bookmarks
Literary Quality - 5 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Logan Lerman (Benji), Chris Hemsworth (Calliel), Abraham (Michael Fairman)


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