Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The River by Michael Neale

I was intrigued by all the hype made of "The River" by Michael Neale.  It was compared to "The Shack", which was quite enjoyable.  So I was excited at the chance to read and review "The River".  It was interesting that the cover looked like an old, worn leather bound diary...right down to the jagged-edge pages.  

"The River" is basically a coming of age story and how the main character overcomes difficult obstacles to becoming the man he was meant to be. 

Gabriel is 4 years old when he sees his father die while rescuing a kayaker from the River. He is sent to live with his mother in Kansas after that and we then watch him struggle with the loss of his father and the fears and sadness that brought on. He is a quiet boy that has days that fit into two different categories - good days or bad days. The bad days are when he retreats to his safe place and is unable to find his way out for a bit. His mother loves him and worries about him, but is unable to help.  When Gabriel goes on a camping trip after high school he has an experience that changes his life and where he was heading. He goes white water rafting on The River. He is both terrified to go and yet very drawn to it. It takes a cute girl to talk him into going and once he does he knows he cannot live without living life on the River.

The book started out with a very promising first act but it gave way to an underwhelming second act and the third is even more sluggish.  For that matter, not enough time is expended on Gabriel's inner struggle and development.  When I'm reading a Christian novel, I want to feel the heartache of the protagonists. I want to read about characters who doubt and wrestle with God, and perhaps ultimately choose to seek Him even though they're breaking on the inside. I never truly felt Gabriel's inner conflict throughout this story.  The premise of the book is that everyone has a story and each person's story needs to be told.  While Gabriel's story was told here, it didn't hold anything special...it left me feeling kind of flat and not really connected to any one character.  In my opinion, it wasn't all it was hyped up to be.  It wasn't a bad read, but it wouldn't be high on my list of recommendations.

I'd like to thank the folks at Thomas Nelson and Book Sneeze for the complimentary copy of this book and the chance to read and review it.

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