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What This River Keeps Paperback – May 1, 2009
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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 ground. -- Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Conservationist Manifesto -- Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Conservationist Manifesto
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. This is a very fine first novel. I read it compelled and fascinated to the last word. ---- Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong
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. Schwipps is a potent young master, ready to become a steady companion to the American reader. ---- Tom Chiarella, Fiction Editor, Esquire Magazine.
2010 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Emerging Author Award --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I am so thankful that Greg Schwipps has given Indiana, given his fellow Hoosiers, this novel. What an asset to have our home treated with such careful workmanship. How deserving this book was and still is of the Indiana Authors Award.
But don't read this novel simply because of its Indiana ties. (Of course, if that motivates you to pick it up, then get at it!) Read it because you want to read a story that does what a story is supposed to do: turn your heart forever toward a few people you've never met, delight in the mud and grit that is their lives, and root for them because you simply can't do anything else.
With a careful hand, Schwipps guides the reader among multiple perspectives with grace and intrigue that recalls, unassumingly, the precedents of Faulkner, Barbara Kingsolver, and Kent Haruf. With each new chapter, we become more intimately invested in the inner lives of each character and, subsequently, in the space they inhabit. Schwipps evokes unforgettable and heart-rending imagery throughout the novel, including a painfully accurate and colorful depiction of a Midwestern county fair. As we expect from Schwipps, who has worked in the medium of nature writing for much of his career, the scenes depicting fishing and farming are exquisitely drawn and fully realized. His eye for the lay of the land and its emotive potential is well demonstrated in this work. In fact, this book is worth reading for its atmospheric quality alone, and a staple of Hoosier literature as enticing as Major's _The Bears of Blue River_.
_What This River Keeps_ is deeply felt, obliging to the natural world, and in touch with the spectrum of human emotion. There are moments in which we laugh, cry, and contemplate with every single character in the novel, even the dog. Schwipps's story, most notably, compels readers to think deeply about where we spend our love, and that we don't have to be alone in this world if we simply venture to reach out, even if that reach goes no further than the waters, fields, and friends that were there all along.
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.