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River Woman: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, December 24, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (December 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743410408
  • ASIN: B001PIHT82
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,533,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Rio Minho in Jamaica provides much more than a setting for this potent, accomplished debut. Hemans is an original, although she never seems to be making a point of her uniqueness. Born in Jamaica and educated in the States, she apparently hears life sung by a chorus, not a single voice. The novel opens with the drowning of three-year-old Timothy, as his teenage single mother, Kelithe, is washing clothes in the river with the other women of Standfast, a small town that seems a century behind the times. The drowning prompts the return of Kelithe's mother, Sonya, who had abandoned her for a life in the States, promising "soon-soon" to send for the girl. It is revealed that just before Timothy's death, Sonya finally made the offer concrete, but on condition that Kelithe leave the boy behind. Abandonment is a major theme here not only by parents but by a government that has broken all its promises to Standfast and the myth of the beautiful but treacherous river mother, the Mumma, is a recurring metaphor throughout. Sonya returns to Jamaica for the funeral and finds the townsfolk united in their conviction that Kelithe stood by and let Timothy die so she could slip away unburdened to a new life in America. Will Sonya come to her daughter's defense or abandon her again? Hemans pitches the question as intensely as a thriller writer and answers it as resonantly as a poet. Northeast 4-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Did Kelithe's son Timothy accidentally drown in the Rio Minho as the women washed their clothes, or did Kelithe stand by and watch Timothy die so that she could leave behind her life and join her mother in America? Though the women of Standfast, Jamaica, shun her and demand that she be put to justice, Kelithe remains mute and numb with grief. She can only wait for her mother, Sonya, to return from New York and stand by to defend her. But mother and daughter are virtual strangers after 15 years apart, and, in the end, nothing can comfort the devastated Kelithe. The tone of the novel is one of deep sorrow and abiding pain, making the book a difficult one to read for long stretches at a time. But it is also alive with the sights, smells, and tastes of Jamaica, its rich history, and vibrant people. Like the works of Edwidge Danticat and Jamaica Kincaid, Hemans's first novel is one of stark lyricism and shattering emotional honesty. For all large public libraries. Yvette W. Olson, City Univ. Lib., Bellevue, WA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I am looking forward to Donna's next book.
Adrian Robertson
A book that makes you look up at the end and see your own world in a whole new way.
Gretchen Laskas
River Woman is a heartbreaking and beautiful novel that tears at your emotions.
The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Taryn A. B. on April 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book has an unexplainable quality that gives it the aura of a dream. Even though the story is sad from beginning to end, I found myself not being able to put the book down. As you read, the story clarifies itself in a way that makes you realize that the book is not only about the death of a child, but about how people use the tragedy of others to serve their own purposes. This is a very thought provoking work that will leave you stunned as Hamans refuses to give us the "just" ending we wish for throughout.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gretchen Laskas on January 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Hemans read from her work before publication and could hardly wait for this book to be published. This is the sort of book that deserves a wide readership -- a book that is a privilege to read. This is a book about the fundamental issues that make up our lives. A book that makes you look up at the end and see your own world in a whole new way.
The characters in RIVER WOMAN are poignant, heartbreaking, yet rendered with such care and so real to the reader that they will resonate with you long after you close the covers. The writing is wise -- gentle in places -- but ultimately as true to itself as the women are to the story.
This is a book that should have a wide reach. I hope every opportunity is given to RIVER WOMAN and Ms. Hemans to find the readers this book deserves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Friends and Readers Bookclub on June 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Light a candle, pour yourself a cup of tea and curl up in your favorite spot with this provocative novel. Standfast, Jamaica, the small, spineless community in which this story takes place lacks growth and economic development. Soon after an unfortunate mishap, the demoralized people of this community suddenly began to lash out. Unfortunately, the anger of their present condition is misdirected towards Kelithe, a young grieving mother, who wants more out of life than what Standfast has to offer. The plot thickens upon the arrival of Sonya, Kelithe's estranged mother, who has lived many miles away in America. She returns under the disguise of love as she subliminally began to participate in the public attempts to maliciously ruin Kelithe's character. Years of broken promises from mother to daughter test the strength of maternal love in a relationship that was abandoned by 'soon-soon' promises and a new family in America. The author uses many metaphorical themes that may be used to conclude several questions of "why". "Did she or did she not?" "Why did she or why didn't she?" are questions that will continue to probe the readers' thoughts as the pages are turned. River Woman is written with richness and delicacy. This novel has such a rhythm that keeps its pace consistent through out the pages.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I heard about this book from a friend. I don't know why it isn't getting more publicity: it's absolutely fabulous! From the stunning first chapter, it's impossible to put this novel down. The author's style is poetic without being pretentious, and she's interested in the serious stuff of life: guilt, loneliness, heartbreak, love.
I'm recommending this one to my book club!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I considered putting this book down. But I persisted. And good things came to me who waited. This is a good novel. Far better than Patricia Powell's "Me Dying Trial" and considerably better than Makeda Silvera's, "The Heart Does Not Bend"; both of which, like "River Woman", examine the dynamics of the relationships between Jamaican mothers who go off to North America to seek their fortunes and the "barrel children" they leave behind.

The plot expands from one central event; the drowning death of 3 year old Timothy. Donna Hemans tells the story through a combination of the first person narrative of Kelithe, Timothy's teenage mother and the heroine of the novel and a third person, far from neutral, narrative. The narrator and Kelithe are on the same side. There is no pretence at sympathy for the characters Kelithe and the third person narrator disapprove of. But the novel does not suffer for this. The telling of the story comes across as events recounted by honest, though not impartial witnesses.

Betrayal is the central theme of the novel: the betrayal of Kelithe; the betrayal of the village of Standfast. It examines the dislocation of barrel children; their estrangement from the mothers who drop out of their lives for almost their entire childhood. The absence of the fathers of barrel children does not appear to be a matter of major concern to the writer (as is the case in "The Heart Does Not Bend" and "Me Dying Trial"). It is almost as though there is an assumption that fathers are absent in any event; that the father role is marginal, unimportant. Mothers, however, are held to account. Kelithe's mother is portrayed as self absorbed, having only the faintest regard for her responsibilities as a mother; the very sin of which the villagers accuse Kelithe.
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By Dawn R Reeves on November 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
River Woman is a haunting account at one woman's pain of lost love and an entire town's pain of justice denied. Kelithe is a nineteen year old woman whose son, Timothy, drowns in the Rio Minho River as his mother washed laundry. The other women at the river say that Kelithe stood by and let her son drown so that she could go "foreign" with her mother; a mother that left her in Standfast, Jamaica fifteen years prior.
Enter Sonya, Kelithe's mother, who arrives back in Standfast for the wake. Kelithe denies her role in her son's drowning, while Sonya contemplates her daughter's role by shifting back and forth between blaming and not blaming her and listening to the natives' account of the drowning.
The uniqueness of this story comes in the form of Kelithe and Sonya's contemplation through the reader only. Never do they deny or blame each other verbally for the drowning, the love denied, the false promises or the betrayal. The river and river women are symbolic as they represent all that Standfast has endured since Sonya was a young girl in Standfast and before. This incident forces the town into action and produces emotions that the island of Jamaica has never seen by the residents of Standfast.
Written in a very lyrical tone, River Woman is a novel that will have you contemplating the ramifications of Sonya's actions fifteen years prior and her actions in the present. This is a sad account that leaves you wondering what exactly happened at the river that day and why.
Reviewed by Dawn R. Reeves, Apooo BookClub
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