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The River Way Home: The Adventures of the Cowboy, the Indian, & the Amazon Queen [Kindle Edition]

Mary E. Dawson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description


2013 Best Florida Fiction*
2013 Best Florida Young Adult Book*
2014 James J. Horgan Award Winner**

It's 1914 and Florida's last frontier is coming of age. A young Cracker who yearns to become a Florida cow hunter, a Seminole boy who sees his way of life dying, and an educated African-American girl from Baltimore who longs to have adventures are lost in the magical and mysterious Florida Jungle between Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean. When outlaws block the only road back, they have to find a new way home. How will they survive, and who will they be when they get there?

 "The River Way Home" is a tale of pre-bulldozer Florida for young adults and adults who are young at heart. Full of action, humor, exotic animals, and conflicts that remain contemporary today, it is a classic tale of friendship and coming-of-age that will take you back in time to your childhood favorites.

With a section of old photos and short historical essays at the end, "The River Way Home" is historical fiction full of action, humor, and conflicts that remain contemporary today. 

 *Florida Authors & Publishers

**Florida Historical Society

Editorial Reviews


"...This book hits the bull's-eye ... more than just an adolescent thrill ride or a 'coming of age' story.  I almost felt as if at times I was there amidst the characters, soaking up the lush surroundings.  By far, one of the best history lessons I have ever had the privilege of taking.    - Glen Marcus for MBR

" adventure of epic proportions sure to ignite the imaginations of readers old or young!"
"Some might compare this story to Mark Twain's 'Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn', and rightly so. ...  But I found it to be more of a history lesson, with endearing and well-written characters to carry us on a wonderful journey. ... I would recommend this story to be used as a textbook in all Florida history classes."   - Magnolia Blossom Review
"...the ending arrives much too quickly." --Gary Stout
"A nostalgic novel with an environmental message that illuminates the book without distracting in any way from the fun." --Blogcritics
"This is a remarkably well-told tale that brings the past to life. The characters are incredibly real and it is easy to join in their joys, sorrows, fear, and excitement." --Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite

"Filled with a strong story, wonderful imagery, and well developed characters, the book paints a vivid picture of the time with a solid mix of history, the clash of different cultures, the still prevalent issues of inequality across race, gender, and mindset..." --Gary Stout

From the Author

Fall in love with the Florida that used to be.

One of the reasons I wrote "The River Way Home" was to let people experience what the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon were like before human beings dredged the canals that connect them and the Caloosahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee.

Florida's natural systems of wetlands and lakes originally cleansed the runoff from Central Florida by draining it slowly down the Kissimmee Valley through Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. Today, that water flushes through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, polluting them all, while the Everglades starve.

It's my hope that everyone who reads "The River Way Home" will get to know the rivers that used to be, fall in love with them as I have, and join the fight to save them and the Everglades.  There has to be a better answer.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2288 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Publisher: WRB Publishing; 1 edition (December 31, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,905 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Discover Old Florida Through New Eyes July 15, 2013
Readers who love "A Time Remembered" by Patrick Smith will be delighted with The River Way Home." Mary Dawson's novel captures the pristine beauty of Florida before big development hit. Her lyrical prose and deep love for the environment infuse a wonderful story that engages from the opening sentence to the final conclusion. Historical photos add another layer of interest. "The River Way Home" is destined to be a favorite book that readers will visit many times. Memorable, entertaining and a must read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I feel I must begin with a confession. Although I have never met Mary Dawson, my own mother was a young girl on the frontier in 1914, when the train first came through Cokeville Wyoming, and as a child my own grandmother told me true stories of encounters with real bank robbers. So the plot of The River Way home, which has been summarized so well already by other reviewers, had a special and personal meaning to me.

The book is very real. The prologue of the cowboy telling a story by the campfire took me back to other similar campfires of my youth, and I was "hooked". I also had visited southern Florida as a young teenager, and visited Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston, and untouched parts of the Everglades and the Keys, which magnified the vividness of the scenes as they rapidly unfolded.

The interplay and role reversals as the three young teenagers run into countless threats and challenges is amazing. Each takes leadership or gives critical insights based upon their individual cultural backgrounds, experience and training. The tremendous differences and diversity between the three of them repeatedly turn out to be their greatest strengths as they meet and overcome a myriad of challenges.

Part of the book's greatness is the subtle moral lessons it conveys without ever preaching. I would like to say that the book presents another interesting conflict arising out of our traditional cultural American idealization of bandits and desperadoes, but to even point this out makes me guilty of preaching.

Suffice it to say that the images of the storm, the swamps, the alligator attack, the night in the tree, the beautiful waterways, fishing trip, and even the train are the stuff that would make a great Disney movie.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Move over Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew - Way Over October 6, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Rarely have I read a novel so compelling a read for young people and certain to captivate an older audience for the sheer love of adventure and American historical context. As a resident of Southeast Florida I was flung back into 1914 Florida and the intersection of three lives: An energetic 14 year old daughter of black educators, a Seminole youth and his friend, the son of a widowed fisherman. I learned much about my Florida after the turn of the century when Henry Flagler was bringing his railroad south and the motor car was proving itself capable of slogging America's rutted roads. Mary E. Dawson, Huck, Tom and Becky Thatcher are applauding. Here's hoping this Publishers Gold Seal winner keeps researching and telling us stories of dash and derring do of our land to remember. Ron Wiggins.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Florida's Last Frontier June 24, 2013
Book Description:


What is it? The Florida story of course.

"The River Way Home: The Adventures of the Cowboy, the Indian, and the Amazon Queen," is a nostalgic tale of pre-bulldozer Florida for young adults and adults who are young at heart.

A young Cracker who yearns to become a Florida cow hunter, a Seminole boy, and an educated African-American girl from the northeast are stranded in the magical and mysterious Florida Jungle between Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean in 1914. Through adventures involving alligators, outlaws, and tourists (What else?), they discover who they are and become the heroes of their own legends.

With a section of old photos and short historical essays at the end, "The River Way Home" is historical fiction full of action, humor, exotic creatures, and conflicts that remain contemporary today. It's a classic tale of friendship and coming-of-age that will take you back in time to your childhood favorites."

Florida's last frontier. The Florida Jungle 1914. For modern day 2013, it's hard to imagine well known tourist destinations such as Fort Lauderdale, Kissimmee & Palm Beach as anything but. This very interesting and rare look at Florida frontier life in 1914 is completely
and utterly worlds apart different. The ecological, cultural and geographical history of South Florida at that time is simply fascinating.

Dawson writes of the frontier life in Florida as reminiscent of similar adventures to please either gender---like Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and the Ingalls Family. Rich in geographical detail, this well written and educational adventure is a great summer read for middle grades and older.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The River Way Home is a great Read. May 16, 2013
By germeh
Interesting, well written and educational. The book is about multi-racial relationship and their struggles in the jungle of old Florida.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Look at Turn-Of-The-Century Florida October 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Queenie is a thirteen-year-old young African American lady, the daughter of a school teacher and her hard-working husband. The time is 1914, and slavery is much closer than a memory to this family. Her father is searching for a community where "coloreds," as they are known during this time in history, run their own affairs without "permission" from whites.

Queenie is a well-educated young woman who, when she meets Billy, who wants nothing more than to be a cow hunter (cowboy, Florida style), and his Seminole partner and best friend who later becomes known as The Chief.

While on a small boat, a huge storm drives them off-course into dangerous country. The story is about their adventures on their way home, which would have taken them no longer than a day had they been able to go directly home.

But they aren't, and the ways they use to survive will touch you, make you laugh, and keep you in suspense, because at times it appears they will not make it at all.

This is a delightful book recommended for all ages. Although it's short, it's packed with true history, real outlaws, tourists, and the politics of the times. But more than that, it's a really fun, adventurous read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Florida of yesteryear novel
Well written. Reminiscent of writings by Mark Twain.
Published 3 months ago by Gary L Bastin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story!
Summary – It was the year 1914, and Queenie (an African-American girl) never could have imagined how running into a white fishboy (Billy) and a Seminole Indian (the Chief was his... Read more
Published 3 months ago by This Kid Reviews Books
5.0 out of 5 stars You have to read this one.
Outstanding book. A real page turner. Characters are fascinating. Author researched the background and settings extremely well. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Dave Oslin
4.0 out of 5 stars A very pleasant surprise
A book that brought me back to childhood, the adventure, characters and thrills keep you waiting for the next chapter. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Noreen
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Florida
I loved reading this book. The main character and her two sidekicks were so well drawn, I could see them with closed eyes..
Published 6 months ago by Savta
4.0 out of 5 stars South Florida historical story
It is enjoyable if you are familiar with the region and if not, would enlighten people to the way things were in the past around "old Florida". Read more
Published 7 months ago by Catherine Diaz
4.0 out of 5 stars A MUST for those who have lived in and loved the Treasure Coast
Not being a fan of former Martin Co. Commissioner Mary Dawson, I was genuinely pleased with her research and description of the beginnings of Stuart and Okeechobee. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Lana Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read!
This is a wonderful book for both young adults and adults to read. I learned so much about the area where I live.
Published 9 months ago by Seadeesee
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous adventure!
First of all I offer my thanks to Mary Dawson for allowing me to read and review this marvelous story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! Read more
Published 9 months ago by Teemuke25
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book
This was a nice book for a young person or a history buff, of which I am neither. I had high hopes for this book because of the rave reviews but I lost interest at 58 percent... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Mary E. Dawson is the author of Florida's coming-of-age tale, "The River Way Home: The Adventures of the Cowboy, the Indian, & the Amazon Queen," which won the Florida Authors and Publishers Association's 2013 Gold Medals for Florida Fiction and Florida YA Book, Fiction or Non-Fiction.

A historical adventure for readers of all ages, "The River Way Home" is rich in historical detail that draws readers deep into the beauty and mystery of Florida's unique environment allowing them to experience the characters' exploration of friendship, loss, and possibility as if first hand.

A former professional photographer, editor for NASA, community activist, elected official, and attorney, Mary searched from New Orleans, to Seattle, to Houston, and Miami, before she found the place she calls home - a small remnant of Florida's last frontier, which she shares with friends, family, and a black-and-tan hound that wandered in out of the Allapattah Flats one sunny afternoon.

You can reach Mary with questions and requests at or by email at

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