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The Current

Review

The Current

Audrey and Caroline are the kinds of best friends that perhaps only develop in college --- inseparable, endlessly supportive, and eager to talk about their separate pasts and their promising futures together. So when Audrey gets news that her father, a retired sheriff, is likely to die soon from lung cancer, of course Caroline agrees to accompany her on a road trip from their southern college to Caroline’s hometown in southern Minnesota so she can see him one more time.

Fate, however, intervenes as the girls are about to cross the border from Iowa into Minnesota. After being threatened by a couple of young men at a gas station, they accidentally drive off the road and onto a riverbank. And just when they think they are safe, their vehicle is tapped (or pushed?) by another one, sending it under the ice.

"Beautifully written and full of both long-held grief and urgent suspense, THE CURRENT is a perfect novel to keep by your bedside on these long winter nights."

When the residents of Audrey’s small town nearby hear the news, it’s like déjà vu. About 10 years earlier, another young woman --- the same age as Audrey --- drowned in the same river under suspicious circumstances. At that time, the sheriff (that’s right, Audrey’s father) failed to apprehend a suspect, but one young man, Danny, ended up leaving town under a cloud of suspicion, and he’s never come home again.

Coincidentally, though, just as the town is reeling from this latest tragedy, Danny’s ancient dog dies, and when his mother writes to convey the news, he decides that now is the time to return home to pay his respects. His reappearance, combined with Audrey’s accident and the rapid decline of the sheriff, starts to dredge up old memories, suspicions and resentment --- and soon an unlikely person is conducting her own investigation of what happened all those years ago.

Tim Johnston’s prose style helps reinforce the melding of the past with the present that takes place throughout THE CURRENT. He often shifts fluidly between memories and current events, in a way that deliberately challenges readers’ abilities to decide what’s happening and what’s only in the mind’s eye. He also frequently opens chapters not with a character’s name but with a pronoun --- so readers aren’t always sure, sometimes for a paragraph or more, which “he” or “she” is being written about. This fluidity of time and character helps reinforce the notion that this small town has never really moved past the tragedy that shook it a decade previously, that in some ways it’s always still unfolding.

Beautifully written and full of both long-held grief and urgent suspense, THE CURRENT is a perfect novel to keep by your bedside on these long winter nights.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 25, 2019

The Current
by Tim Johnston

  • Publication Date: January 22, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • ISBN-10: 1616206772
  • ISBN-13: 9781616206772