Follow the River Home - Corran Harrington
DANIEL ARROYO has suffered a lifetime of guilt over the sudden death of his infant sister, who died when he was eight years old. He now lives his middle years between that guilt and worsening episodes of PTSD from a Vietnam he left thirty years ago. When a violent encounter on a dusty highway forces Daniel to face what haunts him, he finds himself pulled back to the neighborhood of his youth, where old houses hold tired secrets. What really happened on that steamy August afternoon? The answer comes spilling from the old neighborhood, and Daniel begins to find his way home. Corran Harrington takes the reader along the Rio Grande, from its headwaters to the sea.
The writing is really so great that even though, for me, it starts off a little slow and feels a little choppy with the start of the story, I'm drawn in. Another thing that I didn't realize is that it is, but isn't, one story. The first section is basically a novella and the rest of the book are just pieces that go with the novella, if that makes any sense? It's really a unique way to pull it all together and I have to be honest and say it's the first time I've ever read anything like that.
But let's talk about the meat of the book. It really focuses on Daniel, who feels immense guilt over the death of his infant sister during his childhood. There's a particular line in the very beginning of the book where he talks about his other siblings having their favorite and we hear Daniel telling his fresh from the hospital sister that she was going to be his. I thought it was so sweet and it really set the tone for what her death would mean for Daniel throughout his life. We also have him, along with every young boy entering manhood, awaiting the results of the draft for the Vietnam War. Would they be going? Daniel, and his best friend, would be going but only one of them would be coming back. For me, that's really the theme that stuck with me the most throughout the book. Not the death of the infant, not his obvious attraction to men versus women, but the draft and the war. What it did to young men who went away. It's one thing if you join the military and are called to serve because you knew that going in, that there was a chance you would be fighting in a war. But the draft.. these were boys who didn't want to go into the military and were forced to go. They were sent in with no mental preparation for what they were going to see and do, let alone how to deal with that once they came back. When he comes back, life at home has changed and so has he, and he is struggling with PTSD. His struggle though, becomes his catalyst to figure out what happened to his infant sister because he carries extreme guilt over her death. The second half of the book was a bit strange for me, but I get what the author was trying to do, I don't know if it's totally successful. It's not enough for me to say skip this book because I think you should absolutely read it, the writing is beautiful as is the story. If you are in the market for a book club read, this would be a really great one to pick up that is relatively short (200 pages).
You can find your own copy of Follow the River Home on Amazon right now.