32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2008
I have to admit this is the first novel I've read by this author. In addition, for the last several years, as I've approached a certain age (I'm 61), I've tended to veer away from "reality" in my choice of reading materials and gone more for "fantasy", i.e., romance novels (hey, don't knock them until you try them), alternate universe stuff and books filled with mythical creatures. I love a good vampire story (maybe the age thing again, although I loved vampires even as a kid, oh well).
Anyway, this book. I wanted something different and this book delivered. Mia is "everywoman", despite the fact that not all of us have had to battle cancer. I wondered initially whether I could relate, and boy did I. I also wondered as I started the book whether this was going to be a female "ripoff" of A River Runs Through It". Well, I needn't have worried. It's anything but. It stands completely on its own. There is so much good stuff in this book including the fact that it is filled with wonderful, memorable characters.
It was lovely (and completely believable as written) to find a book full of people wanting to "help", as Mia struggles to realistically view her life and marriage before and after the cancer, and the truth of both, and to unravel the decades old mystery of the family the town is named after. Her journey is inspiring in so many ways, simply in recognizing her humanity, aside from the cancer survivor stuff.
It's hard to discuss the story itself because I don't want to reveal too much. This is a story that deserves to be savored. Each reader needs to discover the wonders of Watkins Mill, its human inhabitants, its natural wonders, and the spirit of Kate Watkins which lingers there, to help Mia with her journey toward not just recovery, but change, growth and enlightenment.
There are characters here we've all met, Charles for example, and even Belle to some extent. But so many others we'd love to meet, to spend time with. And although the author chose not to show it, I have no doubt that Mia will take care of her unfinished business in Charleston with all due speed, then return to Stuart and her river. We all need to step into that river, with or without a fly-fishing rod in our hands, and recognize it's truths.
I have to say, it was lovely to simply read this book with the same slow, lazy rhythm as that moving river. No car chases, no blazing guns, no gore, no gratuitous sex or violence. Just a wonderful story full of wisdom and insight and gentle lessons.
I could go on, but I think rather I'll take a look at some of Ms. Monroe's other offerings.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2008
With the rise in cancer statistics and a world in turmoil, I believe we all have a deep seated urge to seek refuge with our friends, family, and when those aren't available, this novel reminds us of the solace in nature and our imaginations. I just finished, "Time is a River", and found the experience of a safe place through the power of Monroe's beautiful language and gift of storytelling. And this is a tough topic to write about; every woman's greatest fear, the loss of health, strength and her family. And even if we do have a more viable support system, let's face it, we have to walk down those corridors of fear alone. Monroe helps dispel those fears.
I believe that this book satisfies every persons dream of living "away from it all", in a cabin, by a beautiful river, with something to keep our mind off ourselves; and here it is the fascinating and unlikely sport of fly fishing. Wow, I really want to try it out! But more importantly, Monroe's novel demonstrates the keys to recovery; acceptance, forgiveness and staying in the present. Nature, art, and relationship keeps all five senses alive and well in this very exciting tale of adventure and recovery. BTW, I "conveniently found" a time capsule in my house in St. Charles, IL., when we were renovating the attic. There were diaries, journals and homemade artifacts of a family 175 years ago. It was an awesome experience, and it happens! People leave things behind for others to find. Isn't that what art really is? Thank you Mary Alice Monroe for stirring up the mud of my imagination.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
In the novel Time Is a River Mia Landan flees to the mountains of North Carolina to seek solace and refuge. Recovering from breast cancer, she has returned to her Charleston home a day early from a "Casting for Recovery" retreat, to find her husband in bed with another woman.
Belle Carson, a fly-fishing guide from the retreat, offers her cabin in Watkins Cove, where Mia hopes to find out who she is now and what she should do next. Belle has never actually stayed in the cabin and isn't even sure she wants to keep it. She will be in Scotland for the summer; thus, the cabin is Mia's for the taking.
Wending beside the cabin and down into the woods, a river bubbles along. Fascinated by the timelessness of the river - even the colors that play in the light - Mia turns to it for comfort. She takes her few fly-fishing skills and attempts to hone them, seeking to become one with her body again, and as the author quotes an anonymous source - "The charm of fly-fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive, but attainable - a perpetual series of occasions for hope."
Inside the cabin, which is quite rustic, cobwebby, and jammed with assorted items, Mia plunges into the task of cleaning it up for her benefactor Belle. It was a cabin Belle inherited from her mother, and which belonged to her grandmother Kate Watkins. Kate was from a wealthy
family that lost its money in the 1929 stock market crash. She managed to keep the cabin and holed up there - where the townspeople gossiped that she entertained her married lover. Then there was a scandal and allegations that Kate had murdered her lover.
But when Mia finds a fishing diary and a personal diary, she becomes obsessed with learning what really happened to Kate back in that long-ago time. She ventures into town and begins researching her subject.
As Mia draws closer to her goal of learning more about Kate Watkins, she also begins to discover new things about herself. And, of course, her fly-fishing skills increase - especially after she meets handsome Stuart MacDougal, a businessman who happens to love fly-fishing as well. And then she rediscovers her artistic talent of painting, long ago abandoned.
As time passes, Mia comes to identify with the river, with Kate Watkins, and with the community surrounding the beautiful cabin. She comes to believe that "time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along. But I am the river."
We must ask ourselves what, if anything, does Mia finally learn about the mystery of Kate Watkins and her lover; will she be able to provide Belle with the truth about her grandmother; what will she do with the rest of her life; and finally, can she risk love again, when she might still hold the cells of death in her body?
This beautiful tale completely enthralled me - I almost felt part of the river and the community while reading it. The author's descriptive passages reeled me in and allowed me to experience Mia's journey along with her. It is a story I will not soon forget.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I had never heard of Mary Alice Monroe before. Ever. But... this looked pretty good. And it was. Ms. Monroe paints a picture of the Carolinas that absolutely haunted me. I'm quite a nature girl myself, but a completely different part of the country. But I found myself willing to give up my desert and mountains to find some quite river in the hills of Carolina to do some fly-fishing. It made sense when I read about the author and found out that Monroe is quite the conservationalist. No one, and I mean no one, could write about this kind of natural beauty and wonder without being passionate about the outdoors.
The rest of the story is, and I say this is in the best way possible, chick lit. If you don't like sappy womanly stories, you won't like this. If you do, you will. It's that simple. However, I am happy to say that this is not just a romance. Yes, it has romance which I happily welcome. But this is also a story of independence, nature, quirky community, and a murder mystery. The characters tend to fall toward stereoypes, but oddly enough I did not mind. To me, it just made them cute. What more could you want?
Monroe's writing is not exactly simple, but she writes her complex prose like poetry, applying words where they will be welcomed, so I never found myself bogged down in the words. The passion here is the river, and this is a theme and motif with which Monroe runs.
This is a beautiful piece of literature that will have something for everyone who enjoys this kind of work.
Now excuse me while I go search out more Mary Alice Monre books.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Mary Alice Monroe paints a beautiful mystery in this skillfully written love story, Time is a River.
Like her mother, Mia is a victim of breast cancer. Her best friend and sister, Maddie, sent her on a cancer survivor's fishing trip to the mountains of North Carolina where the host, Belle Carson, taught the group the joys of fly fishing. Having survived cancer, Mia returned home to catch her husband, Charles, in bed with a lover. Returning to the mountains of North Carolina to recover, Belle let Mia use her cabin in the mountains rent free for the summer. While there Mia faces her fears and becomes attached to the long dead and mysterious Kate Watkins and town's namesake. Kate's progressive legacy was tarnished by innuendo regarding her married lover's missing status and suspicion that Kate murdered him. In her struggle to find herself, Mia finds diaries and much to Kate's Granddaughter Belle's dismay investigates Kate's life. She shares Kate's love for fly-fishing, uncovers secrets that solve the puzzle of Kate Watkins life, finds new love, and becomes attached to the cabin and town folks as this romantic love story unfolds.
The author's imaginative storytelling and descriptive talents bring the forest and its surroundings to life in this sure to be best selling novel.
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2008
This is a soothing and rare treasure of a book. Monroe has really outdone herself this time with the story of breast cancer survivor Mia Landan. After a year of surgeries, radical chemo and radiation, Mia is a ghost of who she once was--a socially polished public relations guru married to an equally driven and sophisticated lawyer. Mia's sister sends her on a 3 day weekend with Casting For Recovery (a real and very amazing group, by the way), a group of survivors who bond and heal, physically and emotionally, through fly fishing. Energized from the experience, she comes home to find her husband in bed with another woman. She blindly races back to the mountains and into the arms of Belle Carson, the fishing guide and infinitely kind hearted woman.
Belle owns a dilapidated cabin that she "rents" to Mia for the summer--it's Mia's job to fix the place up so that Belle can rent it out to fisherfolk come fall. But the cabin has a mysterious past that Mia gets completely obsessed with, involving her in the life, present and past, of small town Watkins Cove and the characters that live there. The mystery, the river, the fish, and the friendships bring Mia back to the land of the living and heal more than one person.
Told partly in narrative and partly through well researched historical diaries and letters, this is a very powerful story of forgiveness, redemption and new birth. Vitality flows through this book just a surely as the river flows next to the cabin. Any woman who believes--or least longs TO believe--in second chances should read this book.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This is book is full of metaphors, some of them better than others. Most of them relate to nature or fishing or hiking or weather. Cancer is a storm. Recovery is being lost in the woods. Fly fishing is about knowing when to let go. Poorly tied flies can cause you to lose a fish. A poorly tied marriage can cause you to lose your spouse. And so on.
Metaphors describing life as a path or a journey abound. Mia changes direction. She charts a new course. She strives to find herself. At one point she goes to a bad place where her sister can't follow. And so on. This book is all about metaphors relating to Mia's self-awareness.
The problem is, other people's self-awareness is frankly boring. And Mia's self-awareness is painfully so. Did she expect the peace and quiet of a mountain cabin would lead to some kind of epiphany? Because it never happened. Whatever meaning of life she expected to find never got found. Instead the story sort of got lost in a long-winded history of another woman who used to live in the same cabin.
The thing that happened to Mia that turned her attitude around and restored her health was, guess what, a man. And not just any man. This was a two-dimensional paragon of a man, a perfect opposite of her two-dimensional lout of a husband. Neither man had any discernable personality. One was simply insensitive and mean, the other was too perfectly sensitive and good, and neither was very interesting.
Add to this long-winded discussions of food, clothes, antiques, and paintings, and you get a really slow-moving story.
Now I am not going to say that nobody will like this book. I am sure there are people with a certain mindset who are truly interested in slow-moving stories about one woman's emotional recovery and the empowerment of women in general. If that is the sort of thing that appeals to you, then go ahead and give this book a try. For me, I was just glad when I finally turned the last page and was finished with it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Mia Landan, a woman recovering from betrayal of both her body and her husband, spends the summer in a remote mountain cabin to try to sort out her life and gather her strength. The presence of the cabin's past owner, Kate Watkins, is strong and Mia gets caught up in her story. Learning about Kate's life helps Mia find her own again.
There was a point in this story at which I feared it was turning into a romance novel (I'm not a fan). Thankfully, it did not. The romance took up a bit too much of the story for my taste, but it was always nicely done and not too overwrought. It bothered me a bit that, in a story whose very thesis was the strength of women, its main character had to be rescued by Prince Charming. Granted, she was already well on her way to finding her strength before the romance began, but it still chafed at me that the story had to go down such a trite path (hence 4 vs. 5 stars).
There were times while reading this book (esp. in the last 70 pages) that I was completely rapt and choked with emotion. There were other times when I was not quite as taken in. However, the story always kept me reading and wanting to know more about Mia and especially about Kate.
The writing is lovely--warm and comforting like a favorite family quilt--and evokes beautiful colors, playful moods, captivating mysteries and the soul of a river. There is a passage that particularly touched me and stayed with me. One of the characters wrote in a letter "...I will be standing in the river of time, waiting with open arms for you to join me." You have to read the book to fully embrace the meaning of this passage but, suffice it to say that it is quite impactful.
To all of the women in this story, the river is a source of enjoyment and of wonderment, of comfort and of achievement. And perhaps most of all, it is a source of strength. The strength that Kate had, the strength that Mia sought and the strength of a river, true and strong.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I really, really enjoyed this book. It was beautifully written, with an engrossing mix of themes involving personal relationships, spousal betrayal, mortality, nature, history and even a bit of a detective story.
A few reviewers have suggested that this is a book only women will enjoy. I disagree. You do not have to be a woman to appreciate and be moved by a story of a woman battling cancer who is betrayed by the one person who has vowed to love and support her - her husband. A man could just as easily be in a similar situation. To help cope with and, ultimately, move beyond, these personal tragedies, Mia takes up residence for the summer is an isolated fishing cabin on a pristine river in the mountains of North Carolina. The cabin is owned by Belle Carson, a fishing guide who conducts fly fishing clinics for female cancer survivors. The author does a wonderful job describing the natural beauty of the Southern Appalachians, an area I have spent a good deal of time in and love.
While spending time alone in the cabin, Mia begins to become fascinated with the story of the cabin's past owner, Belle's grandmother, Kate Watkins, who is rumored to have committed a murder in the cabin in the late 1920's. To learn more, Mia begins researching Kate's life and times in the nearby town of Watkins Mill. As she discovers the strength of this woman whom she never knew, she grows stronger herself.
Yes, many of the themes in this book are tried and true and have been explored by many other authors. But Ms. Monroe does a fine job exploring them again without being trite or too formulaic. And the (fictional) historical tie-ins and associated detective work by Mia were the icing on the cake that really kept me engrossed. In fact, I read the book cover-to-cover in one sitting - I just couldn't put it down.
Bottom-line - if you like books about nature, history and, yes, self-discovery, I think you will enjoy this novel. Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Time is a River is Mary Alice Monroe's latest book and what a wonderful book The author has written. Known for her strong characters in her past books, once again Mary Alice Monroe gives us Mia Landau, her strongest character to date.
Life has been unkind to Mia recently. Not only is she dealing with her recent breast cancer diagnosis but she is finally aware of her husband's most recent affair. Trying to deal with both of these events Mia decides to leave her home and heads for a cabin near Ashville, North Carolina. The cabin, though is no ordinary cabin. The cabin, in question was recently inherited by her fly fishing teacher Belle, from her grandmother, a well known journalist and fly fishing instructor, who lived in seclusion there after being accused of killing her lover.
Mia is hoping that in this secluded cabin she can come to terms with the recnet events in her life. While the cabin is physically secluded, though, for Mia the cabin will open up the possibilities to her for a whole new complete life. For after she finds and reads the former owner's journal, Mia feels a connection to this woman's strength and takes guidance from her words.
This is a must read for anyone who not only enjoys Ms. Monrtoe's books but also one who seeks a vivid and emerging character. I highly rcommend this title and promise you will love this book. For sure time will never erase Mia from your thoughts.