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Readers Comment on THE RIVER WE REMEMBER by William Kent Krueger

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Readers Comment on THE RIVER WE REMEMBER by William Kent Krueger


In August, 25 readers won an advance copy of THE RIVER WE REMEMBER by William Kent Krueger, which is now available and will be a Bets On pick. We asked them to read the book and let us know their thoughts on it. We are happy share to their comments with you here. Many thanks to all who took the time to give us such wonderful feedback.




Mary Pat A. from Mandan, ND
THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is William Kent Krueger's best stand-alone novel yet! I absolutely loved it and was so sad when it ended. I was swept away when, in the first paragraph of the Prologue, he described the Alabaster River cutting its course along Black Earth County "like a long crack in a china plate." There it was --- the “hook.” Amazing writing! His ability to paint the scene for the reader with his gifted, unique prose is like none other. One can feel the sense of community in his characters, feel their pain, understand their trauma, secrets and prejudices. I was completely immersed in the story and enjoyed the large cast of characters. I could see the river and almost smell it.

I live in Mandan, ND, along the Missouri River, not far from Fort Abraham Lincoln where the Mandan (Sioux) Native Americans once lived at On-A-Slant Village. We've seen our share of prejudice through the years growing up here. My husband's family (Elders in the Three Affiliated Tribes/MHA Nation) were forced (years ago) from their homes in Elbow Woods where the Garrison Dam now lies. We have reservations north and south of us and still see racism and prejudices in our area today. Thank you for bringing light to these issues!

I have read every book that Krueger has written and believe this one to be among the very best of his that I've ever read. He weaves so many colorful characters (people I swear I already know), tackles delicate social issues, and crafts his stories so that we are kept wondering “whodunnit” until the end. His attention to descriptive detail is unmatched.

I feel very honored and privileged to have been an early reader. Since the beginning, when a friend of mine who works at Barnes & Noble suggested that I read THIS TENDER LAND, I've been an avid fan. I have read every book in the Cork O'Connor series, as well as ORDINARY GRACE, which moved me to laugh and cry. I've recommended Krueger's books to everyone I come into contact with and lend many of my books so that others can experience his gift of writing. I am a retired Choral Director and teacher, and even though I'm not in a book club, I should be. This book exceeded my expectations. I can't wait for his next one!

My husband is now reading my copy, and we're discussing it as he's reading. This is the PERFECT book for a book club. So many questions. So many characters. So many directions this story could go. I wish all my friends could read it!

I would love to recommend THE FARMER’S LAWYER: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm to William Kent Krueger. I think he'd love it. He and Sarah M. Vogel, a Bismarck native, would make a dynamic duo to co-author a book about rural life in the Midwest.

Linda W. from Berryton, KS
I am an avid reader of William Kent Krueger’s books, so I was thrilled to be picked by Bookreporter to receive an early copy of his latest. I have recently finished his entire Cork O’Connor series and his two previous stand-alone novels, and I can’t say enough about his mastery of the written word. THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is also a stand-alone novel and is every bit as engrossing as the others.

This story is set in the late 1950s. That, right there, drew me in from the beginning. I am an early ’50s baby, and the atmosphere Krueger set up was vaguely familiar to me. The book is set in a small town like mine. I recognized the closeness of most of the citizens, but also the inability of many to accept differences in culture or background. In addition, there was the overwhelming presence of an attitude of male gender dominance --- all of which the author does a masterful job of portraying through his well-developed characters.

Krueger’s main character in this story, Sheriff Brody Dean, finds himself faced with looking into the death of a well-known, but not very well-liked, member of the community. It looked like it very well could have been an accident. That is where he wants to leave it. Brody has enough insight into the volatility stemming from the beliefs of some of the citizens to know that to dig any further will only cause more grief. While fighting his own demons, he is forced to open the wounds and secrets of others. Who could possibly win in this scenario?

Debbie M. from Liverpool, NY
As always, William Kent Krueger explored the depths of the human condition. Each of the citizens of Jewel, Minnesota, and Black Earth County was injured by war --- physically, mentally or by association --- and each carried a burden of a war, real and imagined, that they did not create. Each of them also carried a secret --- sometimes a result of war, sometimes a result of circumstances beyond their control --- and these secrets, which they were too ashamed to share, kept them from truly enjoying life. Through his characters, Krueger was able to reach to the core of what makes us human, what keeps us from living our lives to the fullest, and the demons that either destroy us or make us stronger.

I came to love --- if not like --- all the people of Black Earth County, Minnesota. My spirit soared with those who beat back their demons, who found someone with whom they could share their darkest secrets, and who became, in their own ways, heroes. And my heart broke for those who had no one to love them, who were so damaged by war, hate and their secrets that they could not save themselves or anyone else. Once again, Krueger gave me people and stories that will be in my thoughts for a long time.

I already have recommended THE RIVER WE REMEMBER to several friends. I think it is a terrific book for book clubs because there are so many topics here that would make for a great discussion --- war, hate, what it means to be human, what role secrets play in our lives.

Peter W. from Saint Paul, MN
Kent's writings have never let me down from my first exposure to them when I moved to Saint Paul from Oregon in July 2017, not knowing who he was. And I had moved only three blocks from his favorite writing spot at the St. Clair Broiler, which we enjoyed until it closed six years ago.

I have read all of his books, including every stand-alone and, of course, every installment in his Cork O'Connor series. His books are masterfully written, with my only sadness being that I finish them too quickly. THE RIVER WE REMEMBER met every expectation that I have for Kent's superb writings --- from the character lines, to how he melds everyone so effortlessly together, and the subtle history and geography lessons that he intertwines throughout his novels.

Kent masterfully uses the Alabaster River to tell his story, and how it embraces, carves and molds the stories and characters of the people who live in Black Earth County in the mid-1950s in southwestern Minnesota. From the intermeshing of Sheriff Brody Dern and his extended family within Black Earth County, to the closed doors that were opened by the death of Jimmy Quinn, to his addressing the discrimination felt by Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran born in Jewel, and his Japanese wife, Kyoko, and the inclusion of two newcomers to Black Earth County --- Angie Madison and her son, Scott --- Kent paints a fulfilling picture.

As with any of Kent's writings, I highly recommend THE RIVER WE REMEMBER. My only sadness is waiting for his next masterpiece. In the meantime, I continue to pull his previous novels off the shelf and read them again as I somewhat patiently await his next chapter in Cork O'Connor's life.

Becky R. from Cavalier, ND
It was a fabulous book! Maybe I enjoyed it more than some would because I am from a small town in Minnesota, but I couldn't put it down. A good mystery keeps you guessing until the end, and this story definitely kept me guessing. It was not predictable. I also liked that it really ended, and the characters’ stories were all wrapped up at the end. You were not left wondering what happened to them.

There were a lot of characters, and at first I struggled to keep them straight, but not for long. They were each so unique that I was able to "know" each character and their story. There were some troubled individuals but also some humor. Felix, the town drunk, and the petty crimes reported made me laugh.

I have read all of William Kent Krueger's books. The Cork O'Connor series is my favorite, but this is a close second, with ORDINARY GRACE right behind. His books are reminiscent of another great Minnesota author, Jon Hassler.

Karen M. from North Richland Hills, TX
William Kent Krueger is a master storyteller. The characters come alive through the clear, broad descriptions as they are introduced. But they "grow" throughout the novel as more is revealed about each person's burdens, griefs, loves and more. It was easy to relate the circumstances and actions to what is known of human nature and collective experiences.

The setting is like another character in the book. The river, the town and the surrounding farmlands, along with the homes and businesses, serve an important role in the development of the problems and solutions the characters face.

Besides the story itself, I loved the prose completely. The structure and movement of the sentences and paragraphs seemed to flow like a river --- at times smooth, peaceful and calm and then rushing at a pace like the surging river over the rocks in the churning channels. This novel is compelling and will provide much discussion in reading circles.

Anne P. from Murrells Inlet, SC
I just finished reading THE RIVER WE REMEMBER. It’s going to take quite a while for me to take myself out of Minnesota and all the events that occurred on these pages. I opened the cover and was immediately transported back to my home state, loving the descriptions and feelings of the land and rivers, the feel of the air, and the sounds of living. Those pages also gave my brain and my emotions free rein to exist, to be part of the story, to feel and hear what was happening, to witness the actions and reactions of the people, and even to pet the dogs and hear the crickets.

Mr. Krueger is an artist, and the ink flowing from his pen is as powerful as any oil paint or watercolor bringing a moment to life. I feel as if I know or knew nearly all of these characters. I tried to encourage some and stomp on others as I made my way through this very incredible, harsh and beautiful story.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience one of the best novels I have ever read! I can hardly wait to tell everyone about this book and how wonderful it is.

David G. from Minneapolis, MN
Like a river, this novel begins at its source. On Memorial Day, the body of the most powerful and hated man in the county is found floating in the Alabaster River, killed by a shotgun blast and partially devoured by catfish. From that source, its pages flow faster and faster, fed by streams of thought and careful observation, gaining more and more depth and power, until it reaches its surprising end.

William Kent Krueger is a keen observer of nature and the biology of the land. This book is filled with vivid descriptions of the land and wildlife. Nature can bring us moments of breathtaking beauty, but it is also filled with violent storms and tragedy that change the landscape forever. Like nature, life can bring us moments of breathtaking beauty, but the violent storms and tragedies we encounter along the way change the course of our lives forever. Especially war. The little town of Jewel, Minnesota, is filled with veterans of war whose lives have been forever changed by their experience and carry deep within themselves unspoken pain that shapes the rest of their lives.

Krueger writes with extraordinary grace about all peoples, races and religions. It matters not where you come from or your ethnic group. They are all treated fairly with great compassion. No character is left untouched in this book. All people are capable of both good and evil at the same time. Yet there is hope and redemption and even love. For some, it ends that way; for others, it does not.

In the end, the words of this jewel of a novel shine like alabaster glowing in the night, filling the reader with wonder and a much deeper understanding of human nature and the natural world. This is a book you will always remember.

Candace B. from Mansfield, OH
- The book did a good job of capturing the 1950s time period.
- I smiled at references like hula hoops and “Purple People Eater.”
- I noted that attorney Charlotte Bauer was one of the few women in her profession.
- There were lots of little suggestions about who might have killed Jimmy Quinn that kept me reading.
- I like the title.
- I liked the depiction of Japanese prejudice. I remember how my father (a WWII veteran) was appalled to think that I might buy a Toyota.
- There were a lot of characters. I had to make a notated list.
- I couldn't help thinking of “The Andy Griffith Show” with references to Felix getting sober in the jail cell and food coming from the town diner. But I pictured the sheriff as the Jaws police chief. Connie Graff reminded me of Wilford Brimley.
- I liked Scott Madison.
- There were lots of twists and turns.  
- I guess I need to reread THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. I missed some of the references.

Nancy R. from Joy, IL
I discovered William Kent Krueger when I first read ORDINARY GRACE a few years ago. I am still working my way through the Cork O'Connor series. His books are like comfort food; I am always satisfied. His stories grab me early, and the depth of the characters and the plot keep me enthralled. Living near the Mississippi River and the period of this book gave me many things to which to relate. THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is a wonderful example of how regrets, anger and guilt can darken our lives. I was particularly moved by the author’s final statements in the Epilogue to remind us to be kind to one another and to forgive.

If giving stars, I would give this one a 5 out of 5. I would highly recommend it to others, as well as my book group.

Sharon E-F from Jeffersonville, IN
A fantastic book! Krueger's writing is excellent. I never had to wonder who a character was, or where they were in the community hierarchy or in the storyline. Also, Krueger's writing is so compassionate. No matter what the "sin" was that was revealed, I felt sympathy for that character (except maybe Jimmy Quinn; he was a tough one) and experienced a sense of closeness with each of them. I thought the book was an exploration of the issues of justice and compassion. Where does one begin and the other end?

Note: I am old (86) and have seen a lot of good and not so good, even experiencing some of both in various ways. So perhaps that made each character very believable as I could see aspects of myself or someone I know well in each of them.

Candice L. from Marshall, WI
William Kent Krueger’s superpower is taking a large cast of characters and bringing them all fully to life. They have full histories, tragedies, secrets and mistakes in their past, but they are foremost human. Add in the study of 1950s rural America with its ugly prejudices and you have a masterful book. THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is my new favorite Krueger book, and I’ve read them all.

Immediately after finishing it, I passed it to my husband and asked him to read it so I would have someone to talk to about it. My book club has it on their list for the fall, and I’m so excited. I’ve also recommended it to everyone who asks what I’m reading or what I would recommend.

Ann S. from Grand Marais, MN
The primary reason I recommend this book is the racism occurring in a small community --- alongside individuals trying to create a more understanding, educated community promoting racial equity. That dynamic seems to occur in so many places around our nation.

I already have recommended THE RIVER WE REMEMBER to my book group. Of course, this group reads EACH AND EVERY BOOK William Kent Krueger writes, as his books are the reason our group initially formed.

Tracey C. from Fernandina Beach, FL
Wow! 5 stars! Mr. Krueger paints a beautiful background for his rich characters. More than once, I felt like I was looking through a window and pounding, thinking, Noooo, don’t do that! But then his story would weave in a different direction with so many surprises for the reader. When I wasn’t reading this book, I’d be thinking about the storyline and the characters.

Kimberly G. from Chappaqua, NY
This book is incredible. I couldn't put it down. In my opinion, it is William Kent Krueger’s best work so far, and I have read all of his books. The character development was so thorough that I felt like I knew Brody and everyone in Black Earth County. Additionally, there were so many important threads and themes running through the book, including father/son relationships, how minorities are treated in the United States, and what war does to those who experience it, as well as to their friends and family.

Mark O. from Richfield, MN
William Kent Krueger once again did a stellar job of establishing time and place. The characters all had some type of complexity that made them compelling. Those who went to war, those at home who served through worry, and those who emigrated from war-torn nations were represented in this mix. The mystery itself had twists and turns that were unexpected and took on a number of social issues. The fact that we all can look at them and see a little of our own brokenness in them was brilliant, and the concept of being there for each other through our brokenness came through loud and clear.

Barbara K. from Portland, OR
I love this book! William Kent Krueger has written an engaging story with complex characters who confront prejudice, violence, deceit, and finally finding truth, redemption and forgiveness. In addition, his description of the country and the land are a thing of beauty.

Pam H. from Saginaw, MN
This was one of William Kent Krueger’s best books yet! His portrayal of prejudices in small-town Minnesota was both disheartening and spot-on. The characters were complex, and the storyline wouldn't allow me to put the book down until I finished every last word. I already have recommended it to everyone I know!

Christy V. from San Angelo, TX
I love this book! I was hooked after reading the Prologue. I have already recommended it on Facebook.

Abby M. from Morristown, NJ
I really loved this book. I thought that the characters were so well-written and complex. I was completely ensnared by the story.

Richard R. from Pequot Lakes, MN
William Kent Krueger has done it again. This is another great stand-alone. He really has a gift for making the characters in his novels come alive. I would recommend all of his books to friends. As a matter of fact, I have loaned many to them. Now they are hooked as well.

Annmarie P. from Westfield, NJ
This is the third William Kent Krueger book that I’ve read. I felt as if I was visiting with an old friend with a new story to tell me.

Joan H. from Blaine, MN
I absolutely loved this book. I felt like I was living back in that time. I read it in a day and a half.

Marti W. from Maumelle, AR
This book is amazing, and I definitely would recommend it to others.

Mark N. from Milford, CT
I am gobsmacked by William Kent Krueger's latest stand-alone novel. The depth of character development, the breadth of timely (and, alas, timelessly divisive and troubling) subject matter, and page-turning plot twists lift this work to a new level of both entertainment and education for the reader.