Title: River Current
Author: M Lee Martin
Publisher: Compass Flower Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Coming-of-age fiction
First Publication: 2021
Book Summary: River Current by M Lee Martin
River Current is a story set in the 1950s small town of Westfall, Missouri. Ray, Lydia, Shane, and Sam-seemingly inseparable friends-share the joys and pains of growing up in an idyllic setting along the powerful and mysterious Current River.
But all is not as it seems in the small town, as secret undercurrents run dark. Ray suffers at the hands of his abusive alcoholic father; they all suffer at the hands of The self-important, mean-spirited and bigoted deputy sheriff, Westley Culpepper; and they eventually despair as friendships and love crumble from betrayal, lies, and suspicions.
One after another they all leave the town and each other behind, going their separate ways, vowing never to return. But eighteen years later, the town on the clear cold Current River that was the scene of some of their happiest childhood memories draws them back home. Some who return bring happiness, others bring the weight of the past that bears trouble for all.
Lydia alone, with her luminous soul and forgiving heart, is strong enough to bring the friends to grips with their shared past and set the stage for the healing that must take place. The story is surprising, gratifying, and very memorable.
Written in lyrical prose with irony and gentle humor, M. Lee Martin gives us a story of passion, hate, love and regret set against a beautifully described 1950s America.
Book Review: River Current by M Lee Martin
We all leave eventually. No matter who and what we are, or where we’re from, we will someday and somehow leave our comfort zones or the norm of our lives to find ourselves a place in this world. Some people take their time into actually doing it. They spent much time planning and scheming on how they should gloriously plow into life.
Then, there are those who are used to having things come to them in a rush; and when it’s not fast enough they go for it instead… Such is Lydia, Ray, Shane, and Sam, four inseparable friends in small town of Westfall, Missouri who cannot wait to be themselves without the restriction of the norm. They are growing happily together in this small town near a mysterious Current River. They see life as a colorful journey filled with river, knee-high grasses, endless road, moonlit roof and plenty of exhilarating risks.
But everything is not as happening as it looks from outside. These four kids are dealing with some pretty heavy issues. They’re all from different walks of life, but they all have issues they’re working through. Rich, poor, somewhere in between… doesn’t matter. They all have a moment in the book where they have to deal with their issue head on, and that’s when this little book is at its best. Ray is suffering from his abusive alcoholic father. There is a malicious and intolerant sheriff, Westley Culpepper, who makes their lives more vulnerable. And to make it worse their friendship fall to pieces from lies and suspicions. It then became difficult for all of them, so the only option is to leave it all behind. They become scattered dandelions, gliding aimlessly where the wind will blow them. One after another they leave the town, never to come back. After eighteen years, their cheerful childhood memories bring them back to the town on the Current River.
‘River Current’ by M Lee Martin gets you to think about the idea of a person and the actual being of a person. Which is exactly what Lydia is doing in this book. Or to be completely honest: This is what everyone is trying to do in this book. No matter if it’s Lydia, Ray, Shane, or Sam. They all hurt, in different ways, for different reasons, but they feel pain and they really try their best to deal with it. With varying success, but they are fighting and this is always good because this means that none of them gave up yet.
‘River Current’ by M Lee Martin is somewhat fast read, with a little suspenseful plot, but it seems real and true and this makes all the difference. You won’t find action scenes or major plot twists in here, you’ll find real people with real problems and their will to work through them. No supernatural obstacles, just ordinary life and its challenges. Which, truth be told are sometimes even worse than everything a superhero has to put up with.
Author M Lee Martin dealt with quite a few sensitive topics yet always tackled them in a careful manner. There is no doubt that author used fiction plot as a device in order to focus on the important things. The things that have moved our world for centuries. Love, hope, fear, anger, frustration, despair and the entire bandwidth of human emotions.
The writing was beautiful. It made me feel to be present there in the town of Westfall near the River Current, it made me feel inside characters’ head. There were so many great points raised in this story. Questions about the true nature of your existence. Can you control your life, or is someone else controlling your life for you? Does your environment shape who you become? Or has it been decreed? This is a great book for book clubs and to have a serious discussion about it after reading.