I have trouble getting into some books--they just don't beckon me to pick them up every day. This one was not one of those. From the day I started Tomorrow River, I was swept up into this story, which is part family saga, part heartbreaking drama, part light comedy and part mystery. I love a story with a little of everything, and this most definitely delivered.
Without a doubt, the character that stood out the most was Shenny (Shenandoah), one of a set of pre-teen twin girls who are the story's main characters. While Shenny and Woody are twins, they are very different people. Woody is artistic and emotionally sensitive/fragile, while Shenny is bolder, tougher and most definitely mouthier! :) Shenny is a big personality, and most of the comedic moments of the book come from her observations about the people who inhabit her town in Virginia or her own family. Let's just say that if Shenny lived by the motto "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything," she wouldn't have much to say! :)
The writing is very homespun. There are lots of folky sayings, the type of which you may have heard from your Grandma, especially if you are from the South. I thought the book was very well written and enjoyed how the author brought her characters to life. I must admit that the places in the story never quite came to life for me the way the people did, but the characters are definitely well-drawn.
I loved the fierceness of Shenny's character...her fierce love for her parents (loving her abusive father well past the point when most readers will be able to understand it), her fierce devotion and protectiveness of her weaker twin, and her fierce determination to find her missing mother. You can't help but admire her.
I was reminded of other books as I read this--most especially The Secret Life of Bees (in that both Lily and Shenny had missing mamas and abusive daddies and they both go in search of their mothers)--but also a little bit of The Help, in regard to the time period and the racial culture of the time, etc.
The derivative nature of the book--the fact that it kept reminding me of other books--took my rating down just a notch. What mostly took my rating from 5 to 4 stars (since Amazon doesn't allow me to give it 4 1/2 stars) is that I felt my eyes rolling toward the end, when everything gets wrapped up in a nice shiny package with a big fluffy bow. I'm not saying that how things came out couldn't happen, just that the transition between the rest of the book (which is NOT a happy story for the most part) and the ending (which is fairy tale happy) felt too abrupt to me.
Still highly recommended...a good read and a fast read.
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