Review: Crooked River by Valerie Geary

crooked-river“With the inventiveness and emotional power of Promise Not to Tell, The Death of Bees, and After Her, a powerful literary debut about family and friendship, good and evil, grief and forgiveness.
He is not evil. I am not good.
We are the same: broken and put back together again.
Still grieving the sudden death of their mother, Sam and her younger sister Ollie McAlister move from the comforts of Eugene to rural Oregon to live in a meadow in a teepee under the stars with Bear, their beekeeper father. But soon after they arrive, a young woman is found dead floating in Crooked River, and the police arrest their eccentric father for the murder.
Fifteen-year-old Sam knows that Bear is not a killer, even though the evidence points to his guilt. Unwilling to accept that her father could have hurt anyone, Sam embarks on a desperate hunt to save him and keep her damaged family together.
I see things no one else does.
I see them there and wish I didn’t. I want to tell and can’t.
Ollie, too, knows that Bear is innocent. The Shimmering have told her so. One followed her home from her mom’s funeral and refuses to leave. Now, another is following Sam. Both spirits warn Ollie: the real killer is out there, closer and more dangerous than either girl can imagine.
Told in Sam and Ollie’s vibrant voices, Crooked River is a family story, a coming of age story, a ghost story, and a psychological mystery that will touch reader’s hearts and keep them gripped until the final thrilling page.” – Goodreads

Five weeks after the unexpected death of their mother, sisters Sam and Ollie McAlister are living in a teepee with their estranged father, Bear, in an abandoned field near the Crooked River in rural Oregon. Bear is somewhat of a recluse, a bee-keeper who also performs odd jobs from time to time. Normally spending just the month of August with Bear each year, Sam and Ollie have a small amount of time in which to persuade their mother’s parents that their living situation with Bear is capable of becoming a permanent arrangement. Things aren’t going so well – Bear still hasn’t gotten a real job, he hasn’t found them a different place to live, and Ollie, age 10, hasn’t spoken a word since her mother passed 37 days ago. As the girls are wandering near Crooked River, things suddenly take another turn for the worse: Ollie and Sam, age 15, stumble upon the body of a dead woman.

Bear, who has long been considered an outsider and is somewhat disliked by the small town, is immediately suspected and is arrested for the young woman’s murder shortly thereafter. Circumstances appear to be black-and-white and it soon becomes clear that the authorities are not looking for any other suspects. Sam and Ollie know that Bear could never have done this, and it is up to them – and only them – to prove it. Both girls are well-prepared to fight for their father’s innocence: Sam has quick thinking and razor sharp wit on her side, and Ollie – silent Ollie – has a little something more.

She calls them The Shimmering, these ghosts that Ollie sees. One followed her home from her mother’s funeral and is peaceful and comforting. The other has followed Sam home from the river and is full of darkness and hissing. Both are trying to lead Ollie to the truth – a truth that Ollie cannot share, because her fears keep her from communicating with her sister and the others around her.

While investigating the young woman’s death, Sam comes upon information about Bear that she never wanted to know. Learning these family secrets is soon just as important to Sam as proving her father innocent of murder. She slowly learns about the reasons for the break-up of their happy family so many years ago, and why Bear chose to isolate himself in his current living situation – and that more changes had been on the horizon for her family as well. At the core, this novel is a mystery – but there is so much more going on here than that alone.

Crooked River by Valerie Geary is a brilliant novel full of intrigue, love, wonder, survival, and the ties that bind. It will pull you in and hold you tight until you turn the very last page. I was truly entranced as I read this novel; I felt a kinship to the characters that only the most talented authors are able to create. This breakout debut is certainly one you do not want to miss. Go and get you some, y’all.

Crooked River by Valerie Geary. Read it today!

5 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia



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