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What This River Keeps: A Novel (Break Away Books) Paperback – February 23, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"With this tender, clear-eyed novel, Greg Schwipps has added a worthy volume to the American literature of place, in the tradition of Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, and Wendell Berry. He hears music in country speech, sees marvels on back roads, senses dignity in ordinary lives. Because of the loving regard he shows toward his characters and their land, he strengthens our own attachments to neighbors and Home." ―Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Conservationist Manifesto, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"What This River Keeps bears comparison to the best work of Steinbeck―in this case we're given the vivid portrayal of the common working men and women of rural Indiana juxtaposed against great forces, without pity or hope, but without true defeat, though they may well lose all in the end. Schwipps also gives us, in full measure, the ancient father and son story, reinvented and made new; the complications of family; the friendship between men; the long tested love between married people; the discovery of the responsibilities of love; the love and care of the land; the love of a river; the keen life of the outdoors; the close attention to the earth in its seasons and myriad variousness." ―Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"Like the best work of Richard Russo, Greg Schwipps lushly creates the depth and breadth of a single community with absorbing detail, a refreshing keenness and lyric kind-heartedness. These are likeable, imperfect people, beautifully drawn, living without pretense in what they want from the world. They are connected to the place in which they live, through their animals, their children, their machines, and most of all by the small river that drifts―muddy and rich―through the space they occupy." ―Tom Chiarella, fiction editor, Esquire magazine, reviewing a previous edition or volume

About the Author

Greg Schwipps is author (with Peter Kaminsky) of Fishing for Dummies and his short fiction has appeared in Esquire. He teaches creative writing at DePauw University.


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Product Details

  • Series: Break Away Books
  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (February 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253002362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253002365
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,307,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Greg Schwipps
2010 Winner of the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, Emerging Writer category

Greg Schwipps was born and raised on a working farm in Milan, Indiana. He spent high school and college summers shearing Christmas trees and working as a laborer at Versailles State Park. After graduating from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, he later attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for his MFA in creative writing. He is currently the Richard W. Peck Chair of Creative Writing at DePauw. His creative nonfiction articles and essays appeared in outdoor magazines like Outdoor Indiana, Indiana Game & Fish and In-Fisherman; his personal essays and short fiction can be found online at Esquire magazine's website, as well as in the journals Booth and Sweet. His first novel, What This River Keeps, was published by Ghost Road Press in the spring of 2009. (To be re-released with Breakaway Books/Indiana University Press in 2012.) He also co-authored Fishing For Dummies, 2nd Edition. He and his wife Alissa live with their two dogs near Morgan County's town of Wilbur. He spends much of his free time catfishing in the nearby West Fork of the White River.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Mannon on May 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
WHAT THIS RIVER KEEPS, by Greg Schwipps is as fine a novel I
have read in years. Whether you are interested in nature,
fishing, family struggles, love of the land, this story will
not only hold your attention but speak to the very core of
your being. All of Schwipps' characters are believable, un-
forgettable and enduring. The main character, Ollie, is one
of the most genuine and universal characters in modern fiction.
His struggles as a son, friend and lover kept me turning
pages like no other book I know of. The writing throughtout
the novel never loses its edge and compells the reader's
attention on every page. For me, Schwipps ranks now among my
favorite writers such as Wallace Stegner, Annie Proux, Louise
Erdrich, and Ann Patchett among others. If you liked Ann
you will LOVE WHAT THIS RIVER KEEPS. Schwipps is a gifted
writer who deserves to be read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By bbruner on March 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you'd ask me what I think makes a novel successful, I'd say believable characters, moving relationships, and a story that makes me really care up until the last page. What This River Keeps gets it all right. Like the best of novels, the story flowed perfectly (in this case, like the current of a river), making me care more and more about the characters even as they show themselves to be more and more human.

I'm from Indiana, and I have to say, Schwipps got it right. The voices, the vernacular, the relationships... I bought it all. As far as I'm concerned, Greg Schwipps just earned a spot in a very select group of authors that I'll re-read until the next book comes out. It seems hard to believe it's his first novel. Can't wait for the next.

I'll sum up: read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joshua T. Dials on December 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
What This River Keeps is a story about many things. Father and son. Man and wife. Man and Best Friend. Man and River. Man and dog. And it is also a story about one thing: family. The characters face trials, both internal and external, but Schwipps always reminds us that they are one, and that their bond will never be broken. This, more than anything, resonates with me and inspires hope.

He writes lyrically about the land, and he writes the characters with an honesty that commands both respect and sympathy.

Whether you're looking for nostalgia, a tale of modern struggle between progress/technology/capitalism and tradition/nature/family values, or simply an expertly written story about family and character dynamics in the vein of Plainsong (Haruf), Downtown Owl (Klosterman), or The Corrections (Franzen), you will be thrilled to have What This River Keeps in your collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve Polston on June 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
Greg Schwipps's first novel, What This River Keeps, will ruin a few mornings for you if you're like me and read late at night after the TV news goes off.

The young DePauw University teacher and catfisherman has given us Hoosiers a novel we can give to others from far away when we want to describe what rural people are like and what our beautiful land gives us.

Schwipps must have been an odd little boy, lingering just a little longer in the chicken coop and recording in his mind how it smells on a hot, humid day. He must have been a kid to keep an eye on as he looked a little farther than across the field and saw the end-of-day sun tracing the haunches of a doe eating at the edge of the corn stubble. He has vision and understanding.

This book is full of rich detail that describes what the land smells like, how it soaks up rain and how it floods. It also tells as well as any book how people smell and sound and how they absorb and rebuff the blows life gives them.

Schwipps's first novel is about family, the land, catfishing, and how rural people deal with the imminent threat of government seizure of their land for flood control projects.

This last subject is, perhaps, prescient, as Indiana government plans and builds an extension of I-69 through parts of southern Indiana that many object to.

Schwipps's novel is not a polemic, however, about the cruelty of forcing people from their land, and it would be unfair to dwell on that.

I met Schwipps sometime in the last decade when I bought his journalistic work to publish in Outdoor Indiana magazine when he was finishing his master of fine art degree at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He was a beginning writer and I was a beginning magazine editor.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Ship on July 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
For those who consider leaving this book on the shelf because it doesn't seem like their "type" of book, I urge you to reconsider. Although I am from the very hills and woods this book describes, I never considered myself a country girl or a fisherman, and this book still had much to offer. The characters were so vivid and real that I couldn't help but see people I knew in them. I felt compelled to turn every page faster and faster to find out what they would do next. Their problems are as real as the landscape Schwipps describes, and I found myself noticing more and more about the world around me after having read this book. As a reader I became invested in the characters and immersed in the woods, fields and the river. This is perhaps the most honest, and realistic book I have read, and I loved every minute I spent inside Schwipps's world.
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