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The River We Remember Bets On...

The River We Remember

September 2023

THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is one of my three favorite books of the year and the best of William Kent Krueger’s three stand-alone titles. The setting in Kent’s books always becomes a character, and his latest is no exception. Here we start with a river, where the lifeless body of Jimmy Quinn --- a man with a lot of money and countless enemies --- has been found. He has been dead long enough for the catfish to have discovered him.

It’s 1958, and those who fought in World War II still are grappling with the effects of war as they move on with their lives. This backstory is critical to the storytelling. Sheriff Brody Dern is one of those men, as is Connie Graff, the former sheriff. Kent stretches his characters here and gives them the chance to step outside typically acceptable behaviors. As you read, you will see what I mean. Through this, he makes them even more multidimensional than we have seen in prior works.

The prime suspect is a Sioux Indian named Noah Bluestone, a likely target as he is different and considered a “savage” by the community. He even brought home with him a Japanese wife from the war, which must show how little he cares for those who served. Fingers point to her possible involvement as well; Kyoko is carrying her nation on her back to those in this town. We see the ugliness of prejudice and early judging.

At the same time, as we learn more about Quinn, we realize that there are a number of people who could want him dead. The story revolves around this man without a voice who clearly has commanded fear and loathing from so many. As we meet them, the list of suspects grows with every chapter. There are many times when Noah is the least possible suspect, even as fingers wag his way.

Kent excels in writing about small towns, and he provides great depth to the way of life in them. I love when an author marries place, character and action so deeply. When I closed the last page, I felt like I had spent a weekend at the river. And I was waiting for an invite to spend more time there while I also was satisfied about how Quinn’s demise had been resolved. It is truly a great read and perfect for a book group discussion.

The River We Remember
by William Kent Krueger