Last year I had the opportunity to read and review Jon Harrison's debut novel The Banks of Certain Rivers. I really enjoyed it! To help spread the word a little more, I'm reposting my review from May 1, 2013 because you may have missed it the first time around. Plus, there's a snazzy new cover!
Here's the review (with an updated synopsis):
I had been hearing quite a bit of buzz about The Banks of Certain Rivers around the Internet, much of it positive. While Jon Harrison's debut novel is not one I would normally pick up, I decided to give it a try because I had a feeling I'd end up liking it. I was right. This was a really enjoyable novel that kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next.
Here's the synopsis:
In the lakeside resort town of Port Manitou, Michigan, dedicated teacher and running coach Neil Kazenzakis shoulders responsibilities that would break a lesser man: a tragic accident has left his wife seriously debilitated, he cares for his mother-in-law who suffers from dementia, and he’s raising his teenage son, Chris, on his own. On top of all that, he’s also secretly been seeing Lauren, his mother-in-law’s caregiver.
When Neil breaks up a fight one day after school, he doesn’t give the altercation much thought. He’s got bigger issues on his mind, like the fact that Lauren is ready for a commitment and he has to figure out a way to tell Chris that he’s in a serious relationship with someone other than the boy’s mother. But when an anonymous person uploads a video of the fight to YouTube, the stunning footage suggests Neil assaulted a student. With his job, his family, and his reputation suddenly in jeopardy, Neil must prove his innocence and win back the trust of the entire community—including his son’s.
Jon Harrison’s The Banks of Certain Rivers is a powerful tale of family, loss, and the meaning of love.
It sounds like it would be horribly depressing, right? The situations Neil faces are pretty brutal, true, but he has great friendships and relationships to help him get through life. I think things could have seemed over the top had Neil not had he not had his friends and family around. He had people in his corner, who believed in him and stood by him as he tried to figure out how to prove his innocence.
I just loved the scenes between Neil and his son, Chris. Neil seemed to do a pretty outstanding job raising Chris after his wife's accident. In fact, their storyline was probably my favourite part of the novel. Their interactions were so real and you could tell how they struggled but also how much they helped each other.
I don't want to say too much else about the plot because there are subtle twists that I don't want to give away. I will say that the story grabbed me. There was a bit of set up necessary, some back story, that was interesting but it wasn't until the action really started that I realized I was completely invested in the characters' lives. In fact, I was so into the story that I was reading it during commercial breaks while I watched a TV show because I couldn't wait to find out how it turned out for Neil.
If you're looking for a good read, pick up The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison. It gives you a little bit of everything - family, love, intrigue - wrapped up in a great story. I definitely recommend it!