The River

The River

by Michael Neale
Thomas Nelson, 2012

“The River is magical. It’s full of wonder and mystery. For thousands of years, The River has been carving its way through the Earth. . . . everything is shaped by The River.”

Gabriel Clarke is born by The River. He and his father live by it, wade in its swirling waters, and savour the majestic beauty of its roiling rapids. But The River is powerful. As a young boy, Gabriel witnesses a tragedy wrought by The River, and the event changes his life forever. He leaves The River behind and takes his fears and anger with him to a new life on a farm in Kansas. Years later, The River calls to him again, and he finds he cannot resist a return to his spirit home, even if he must overcome the fears and anger to do it.

“The River is wild, free, and untamable. It’s foaming, twisting, and thundering.”

This book feels good in the hand. It has the faded leather look of an ancient book of wisdom. The poetic opening pages draw the reader in to the allure of The River: “I find myself drawn to The River. With its beauty and power, The River calls to me. The River can be known but not fully. Therein lies the mystery.” The opening sets the tone for a story of deep spirit truths.

Some of the action takes place on the rapids of the Colorado River. I spent three summers working for Wilderness Tours Whitewater Rafting, so the whitewater of the Ottawa River played in my mind as I read about the rafting trips on the Colorado. I could vividly envision the water cascading over rugged rocks and then pooling into calming eddies.

“There are peaceful eddies where the riverbed is flat and the gradient is level, where the water mirrors the beautiful mountains surrounding the landscape.”

Because Michael Neale is an experienced preacher and oral storyteller, he has created a “River Experience” based on this book. In an auditorium setting, with a video backdrop and audio enhancements, he tells the story aloud to riveted audiences. This story is ideal for that arrangement.

There’s just one small problem. Writing for the spoken word is different from writing for books. The River is written to tell aloud; for a book, the writing should be tauter. Neale needs to try harder, go deeper. And, please, don’t use so many exclamation marks. “Breakfast is ready!” does not require an exclamation mark.

I felt the same way about The River as I did about The Shack by William P. Young.

Idea: unique and inspired.
Writing: not great.

I kept wishing that the story had been rendered by a more experienced writer, or by the same writer with ten more years experience. Dear Michael Neale: Keep on writing, every day, and then in ten years re-write this book. OK?

Dip your toes into The River though. Because, as Neale writes: “You can’t fully experience The River from the banks . . .. You have to get in . . . all the way in.

And if you have the chance to see Neale’s “River Experience,” I’d go for it. I think it would be a heck of a ride.

Arlene Somerton Smith


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on September 12, 2012, in Books for the beach, Books provided by publishers, Books to read again and again, Fiction and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you for the review! I will include it in my goodreads list!

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