HomeAll postsCrooked River by Valerie Geary

Crooked River by Valerie Geary

Crooked RiverA review by Nalini Haynes

ISBN: 9780062326591
ISBN 10: 0062326597
Imprint: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Format: ebook, 336 pages

15-year-old Sam and her 10-year-old sister Ollie move to rural Oregon to live with their father, called Bear, after their mother unexpectedly died. The girls go down to Crooked River to swim but find a corpse floating in the water. They try to pull it out but only succeed in sending the body on its way. Later, they withhold information from the police that becomes damning, ensnaring their father in a murder investigation.

Mystery surrounds Sam and Ollie’s upbringing. Once a happy family of four, Bear disappeared one day. They didn’t hear from him for 2 years. When he returned to their lives, instead of moving back home he lived in a teepee in Oregon where Sam, Ollie and their mother visited occasionally.

Sam is afraid. She doesn’t trust Bear. Her distrust tangles them all.

Ollie sees ghosts. One ghost follows Ollie and another follows Sam, although Sam is oblivious. Ollie is too afraid to speak because if she speaks the words will be the ghosts’ words; Ollie fears losing herself in the ghosts’ demands.

Sam is an engaging young adult character whose determination to fix things tends to make things worse. Her risk-taking behaviour is entirely believable under the circumstances. Sam takes the lead in telling the story just as she takes the lead in trying to look after her younger sister.

Ollie’s point of view is so beautifully written it’s difficult to remember her age; she seems like an older teenager except when other characters focus on her tender years. Communing with ghosts gives her insight into what has happened yet her difficulty communicating creates barriers. She becomes creative, devising means to overcome these barriers.

Crooked River is part dysfunctional family, part murder mystery, part supernatural adventure; Sam and Ollie tell this story eloquently. Geary’s prose is lyrical, evoking beautiful or haunting scenes. The denouement is surprisingly brief and yet satisfying. I highly recommend Crooked River.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5 stars

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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