William Morrow: 10/14/2014
eBook, 336 pages
Full of emotion and suspense, Crooked River is an inventive and atmospheric story about family and friendship, good and evil, secrets and lies, grief and forgiveness
Still grieving over the sudden death of their mother, fifteen-year-old Sam McAlister and her ten-year-old sister, Ollie, move from the comforts of Eugene to rural Oregon to live in a meadow in a teepee under the stars with Bear, their reclusive beekeeper father. But soon after they arrive in Terrebone, a young woman is found dead floating in Crooked River and the police arrest their eccentric father for the murder.
Sam knows that Bear is not a killer, even though the evidence points to his guilt—including information that she and Ollie have uncovered. Filled with remorse and refusing to accept that her father could have hurt anyone, Sam embarks on a desperate hunt to save him and keep her damaged family together. They had mysteriously lost Bear once before and Sam is terrified they will lose him again. Only this time they won't ever get him back. She needs Ollie to help her, but Ollie has not spoken a word since their mother's death.
Ollie, too, knows that Bear is innocent. The Shimmering have told her so. One followed her home from her mom's funeral and continues to hover, a spectrum of colors—pink and rose red, sky blue and honey gold. Now another, coiled and hissing, is following Sam. Both spirits warn Ollie: the real killer is out there, waiting. Somehow, she must warn her sister. But Ollie worries that if she tries to speak—even to write—the Shimmering will slip inside her, take control, and never leave.
Sam and Ollie must find the truth quickly—a search that will lead them to unexpected secrets and terrible lies—because the danger is closer to them than either girl knows.
Told in Sam's and Ollie's vibrant voices, Crooked River is a family story, a coming-of-age story, a ghost story, and a psychological mystery as haunting as the best Southern gothic fiction that will touch your heart and grip you until the final page.
Crooked River by Valerie Geary is an incredible debut novel. I absolutely loved this mystery/ghost story/sister tale and very highly recommend it.
It is the summer of 1988 and two sisters, Sam, 15, and Ollie, 10, are now living in teepees with their reclusive father, "Bear," in a meadow surrounded by bee hives outside of the small town of Terrebone, Oregon. Sam loves the meadow and knows the area because has spent every summer for the last three years with Bear in his meadow and helped with the bees, but this is Ollie's first summer there. Now the girls are going to live with their father full time after their mother died of a heart attack on July 4th. Ollie has not spoken since their mother died.
Trying to help Ollie accept the new living arrangements and maybe start talking, Sam takes her down to Crooked River to swim. At the river they find a dead woman's body. When Sam tries to pull it ashore, she sends it on down the river instead. Ollie doesn't say a word as Sam puzzles out what to do, if she should tell someone or not. When they get back to their camp, Sam finds a jacket that looks like it has blood on it. Could Bear be responsible for the murder? Or, as Sam believes in her heart, is he really simply a victim of circumstances?
Ollie may not be talking, but she's thinking and watching what is going on around her, including Shimmerings, the spirits of dead people who she can see and hear around her. Since her mother's funeral, the Shimmering that looks like her mom has been following Ollie. Since they found the body, an angry Shimmering with bared teeth has been following Sam. Ollie knows that Bear is innocent. She tries unsuccessfully to communicate her thoughts to Sam through various means, but she simply can't talk and tell Sam why and what to do or the Shimmerings might take over her voice completely.
I was completely immersed in this well-written tale and felt the suspense ratchet up with each chapter. The chapters in the novel alternate between the voice of Sam and Ollie as the girls try to find clues and piece out what to do and how to prove to local law enforcement that their father is innocent. Even though it will be easy for readers to predict who the real killer is, the enjoyment was in the two sisters trying to work out the mystery and discover how to prove their father's innocence. I understood the reaction of the girls. I was emotionally invested in following Sam and Ollie's story to the end.
The writing in Crooked River is sublime. Sam and Ollie have different voices in the narrative and you will find yourself wanting the girls to succeed, to make it. The writing is also wonderfully descriptive in establishing the setting. I felt like I was in the meadow, hearing the bees, feeling the heat during the end of the summer. I was in that small town. I understood the time and place. I will be anxiously awaiting another novel by Valerie Geary.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of William Morrow for review purposes