I Am the River

T.E. Grau. Lethe, $15 trade paper (236p) ISBN 978-1-59021-445-9
The verdant jungle of Laos in the waning days of the Vietnam War is the setting for Grau’s mind-bending journey. When African-American soldier Israel Broussard fails to follow orders, he’s hauled out of the field and recruited with other outcasts to terrorize the enemy into fleeing, in hopes of ending an unwinnable war. The operation ends in horror, and, five years later, Broussard must return to that river of fire to exorcise the demons that plague his existence. The narrative shifts from first to third person and back again, creating a disorienting effect, magnified by the traumatized Broussard’s visions of a vicious black dog he calls Black Shuck and a rising river that threatens to swallow him whole. Grau’s poetic prose and stunning evocation of time and place (“I wonder what those eyes have seen and how they’ve been altered since arriving in this dragon-scale land that beat back the bully by sheer force of chin, losing every fight but winning the war”), from the killing fields of Vietnam to the haunted alleyways of Bangkok, form a fever dream of copious bloodshed and many shades of gray. This is the dark canvas against which Broussard’s terrifying and heartbreaking redemption tale plays out, and it will linger with readers long after the last page is turned. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/20/2018
Genre: Fiction
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