The River Warren

Kent Meyers, Author
Kent Meyers, Author Ruminator Books $21 (271p) ISBN 978-1-886913-23-3
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-15-601062-7
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A bizarre and perhaps malicious incident in a small Midwestern farm town is the focal point of this skillful and sensitive first novel. When Two-Speed Crandall careens down a hill and crashes a semi-trailer loaded with Leo Gruber's cattle into the bank, the barbershop and the hardware store, he kills himself and his wife, who was in the passenger seat. The townspeople are suspicious: was the accident suicide and/or Two-Speed's way of punishing his wife, who was finally ready to leave him? Like the river that runs through the town and that serves as a metaphor for time and memory, the nine characters who narrate this novel determine its shape and direction. Ably differentiating their voices, Meyers presents various versions of the events that led up to the accident. The narrators include a bystander who witnesses the wild ride, the town doctor, a wise old fisherman and six other players in the drama, chief among them Crandall's son, Luke, and Gruber's son, Jeff, who are friends even though their fathers barely tolerated each other. Through the interweaving of secrets and memories, we come to the closest possible understanding of why the crash happened. Along the way, the relationship of Luke and Jeff assumes its own importance. While the frequent switches in point of view are a bit frustrating until readers have a larger sense of the story, there is a cumulative rise in tension as the background becomes clear. Meyers's best accomplishment here may be the devastatingly beautiful passages on the death of Jeff's younger brother, Chris, from the viewpoints of Jeff and his mother. Here Meyers hones his sometimes fevered prose and achieves a simplicity of expression that conveys the arc of grief and acceptance. Editor, Dallas Crow. (Sept.) FYI: A collection of Meyers's essays, The Witness of Combines, is coming in September from the U. of Minnesota Press.
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