cover image The River Queen

The River Queen

Mary Morris, Author . Holt $24 (270p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7827-5

In this chronicle of a self-imposed journey down the Upper Mississippi River, Morris (Nothing to Declare ) attempts to figure out her future and enjoy herself. After her daughter leaves for college and her father dies, Morris opts to jump aboard a houseboat, hoping the quest will help her navigate life's troughs. It's a great idea, but the voyage is tough on the reader. Morris is a touchy trekker, making her less than a great travel companion. Until the last third of the book, she's distressed by just about everything having to do with the venture. The cramped quarters on the houseboat, the food, the once booming river towns now mostly boarded up and lonely, and the sometimes tedious pace all cause her consternation. "I hate pizza. I hate all that doughy stuff. I want a meal, shower, amenities," sums up her attitude for most of the trip. Morris sprinkles the narrative with tantalizing bits of fact and opinion regarding both the human and natural environments she encounters. This is where the book sparkles. But often she barely skims the surface, leaving the reader thirsty for more. Sadly, by the time Morris regains her spirit and begins to enjoy the adventure, readers may have jumped ship. (Apr.)