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Go as a River


Go as a River

At the floor of the Blue Mesa Reservoir lies the extinct town of Iola, Colorado. Iola was submerged in the early 1960s with the creation of the reservoir, though recently the water levels were low enough to expose decades-old evidence of the town. A fifth-generation Coloradan, Shelley Read places much of the action in her debut novel, GO AS A RIVER, in Iola. Her protagonist, Victoria Nash, is a strong and mostly solitary woman. The flooding of Iola drowns some sorrowful memories for Victoria, but the love and loss she experienced there never really disappears, even when the town itself does.

In 1948, Torie is a lonely teenager in Iola. Her mother, favorite aunt and beloved cousin all died in a car accident. Since then, Torie has been living with her hardworking father, bitter uncle and cruel younger brother, Seth. Her days are consumed with caring for the three men of her household and helping out on their locally famous peach orchard. A chance encounter on her way to retrieve her drunken brother brings her and Wilson Moon together. Wilson asks her for directions to the boarding house, and it is love at first sight.

"GO AS A RIVER blends the tenderness of a romance novel with the tough realities of a family drama and the powerful vistas of a western."

Torie is intrigued by the appearance of this stranger and both surprised and flattered by his flirtations. She introduces herself as Victoria, demonstrating a shift in her self-identity. Identity is immediately important in another way for them: Wilson is indigenous, which makes him suspect in Iola, where he is perceived to be dangerous. Victoria knows that she would be shunned, and Wilson is essentially hiding out in the mountains (with the help of town eccentric Ruby-Alice Akers), but the two begin a reckless affair.

With Wilson’s attention, Victoria blooms. From him she gains a new appreciation of nature, and her loneliness eases. With Victoria, Wilson finds unconditional acceptance and trust. However, readers won’t be surprised when tragedy strikes, breaking up the young couple. With Wilson gone, and having been betrayed by her brother and disappointed by her father and uncle, Victoria makes a decision that will color the rest of her life.

After returning to Iola and then leaving there, having sold her land for the creation of the reservoir, Victoria's story is characterized by the loss of the people she loves the most. For years she wonders what might have been and mourns those who are gone, even as she rebuilds her life and becomes independent, capable and, in many ways, content.

GO AS A RIVER blends the tenderness of a romance novel with the tough realities of a family drama and the powerful vistas of a western. The pace here is slow and contemplative, but Read has a lovely writing style and wields it well as she shares Victoria’s thoughts, struggles, triumphs and heartbreaks. At times, Wilson veers a bit too closely to the outdated noble savage trope as he survives in the woods alone, speaks in poetic and cryptic phrases, rescues and heals Victoria in a variety of ways, and generally exudes a wisdom beyond his teen years. Still, this is a rich and vivid work of fiction full of deep longing and compelling emotion.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on March 10, 2023

Go as a River
by Shelley Read

  • Publication Date: February 28, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
  • ISBN-10: 1954118236
  • ISBN-13: 9781954118232