Received from Bell Bridge Books through NetGalley
“The only thing that really ever haunts a person is a regret.”
Roslyn Byrne is twenty-four years old and feels her life is over.
Formerly a professional ballet dancer she lost her career in a car wreck. When she loses the baby she wasn’t sure she wanted during a premature and lone birth she also loses a bit of her mind and most of herself.
With the future seemingly without any prospects, Roslyn yearns for the past and the Appalachian foothills where her grandmother lived until her recent death and was part of a gospel singing group.
Warned against travelling back to what used to be her home by her mother, Roslyn instead travels to Manny’s Island, Georgia for the summer bringing her granny’s music with her.
On the island the broken dancer meets ten-year-old Damascus Trezevant, a girl with her own broken heart, looking for a way to mend her life with the aid of pumpkin seeds.
When Roslyn reluctantly gets involved with Damascus and her family she finds herself stumbling into a world where superstition and hoodoo magic are part of everyday life and where blind alligators will find their way into your home.
Over the course of the summer Roslyn has to find a new purpose for her life and the Trezevant family has to bury the ghosts from the past in order to move forwards. It will be a time of pain and dashed hopes as well as insights that lead to new opportunities.
This is a beautiful and very well written story. Roslyn’s pain and despair are palatable for the reader as are Damascus’ childish yet very recognisable hopes.
The setting of Manny’s Island is equally haunting and beautiful. The descriptions of the place make it easy to believe that magic could and would happen there, without turning the island into a Fantasy Island style paradise. In fact, paradise is far removed from Manny’s Island and those who live there, except that it is a place where some may find hope and redemption.
There are no easy, happy endings in this book. This is real life where hard-knocks come to people and they have to deal with them best they can regardless of their age, history or past mistakes.
I admire the author for not taking what early on in the book seemed to be the easy and predictable way out. It made this story more real, if a lot sadder.
I’m not at all surprised that this book comes with a host of very positive editorial reviews; it deserves every single one of them. I will therefore leave the final word on this book with Sharyn McCrumb because I couldn’t put it better myself:
"There is magic and wonder in "The River Witch," but the real enchantment here is the strength of the characters Roslyn and Damascus. Their voices are the current that carries the reader along in this compelling tale of healing and discovery."