Monday, December 1, 2014

River Music: A Review, An Interview, And a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won Liesl's Ocean Rescue in last week's giveaway. For those who didn't win, you have three more chances to win books this year, for yourself or as a holiday gift for a special young reader in your life. I'm happy to share these books with my fellow bibliophiles!

Aptly titled River Music, this novella meanders through the lives of thirteen individuals connecting one life story with another. Set in the North Carolina mountains following the Civil War, each short chapter is written from the perspective of a different character; a well-executed feat by author Leigh Sauerwein.
The characters are diverse and deeply portrayed: white, black, Creole, and Native American; young and old; rich and destitute; slaves, soldiers, and storytellers. But they are tied together by a young girl's desire to know the truth about her self: a story that is bigger than any one of them. 

Sauerwein's use of imagery feels like poetry. In one passage Rainy, the young protagonist, is considering Will, the man who took her in as an infant. She thinks, 
…as he talks on about the comet, she hears the dark river more clearly than ever behind Will's soft, slow voice. She longs to ask him for something that he cannot define. If he answered her, if he answered her truly, she thinks it would feel like seeing the comet. Or a shining star. Tell me a true thing, she longs today. Tell me a true thing about me. tell me what you are hiding. 
Will talks on and on, soothing her. She feels his kindness flowing around her, but something else at the same time, something that leaves her frightened. Like a little animal who fears the plunging owl. Like what Will had showed her once in winter, the light traces in the snow of a predator's wingtips and the tracks of a leaping mouse. p. 83
I was intrigued with the how Ms. Sauerwein came to write the story and she graciously answered some questions about the work. 

Carol:  What was your inspiration for this story? Did your life experiences influence its' creation?

Leigh: I don’t think I could pin down just one source of inspiration. I have always been interested in history, whether it be 12th century France in my novel Song for Eloise or the South during and after the Civil War in River Music. I was interested in Reconstruction; after the fighting was over, when things were unsettled, both violent and somewhat vague, and before the rigid Jim Crow laws came into being. These are the troubled times I explored in order to write “River Music”. [A writer] is like being a hunter, a seeker, a kind of pilgrim. But you don’t always know what you are looking for until you find it. (Or it finds you.)

The writer cannot escape being influenced by the events of his/her life.  But the impulse to write comes only from within. I was born in North Carolina, my mother was from Georgia, I grew up in Europe, lived for many years in France, and now in Berlin. So these are things that got into me. Had I grown up in India and were now living in southern Spain, that would have gotten in to me. But you don’t really write out of your life experiences, the act of writing, the desire to write, comes from a deeper level and the experiences are part of the process, but not the essential part. You’re not a writer because you’ve had all these experiences. You’re a writer because you have this mysterious desire to write, tell a story, make music with words...

Carol: Why did you decide to write it in snippets from several characters points of view?

Leigh: I wanted to try and get as close as I could, not just to the characters but to those times, to the landscapes, to give a sense of place, a sense of being within that time. Whether up in the North Carolina mountains or in parts of New Orleans, or out west. I could say that I wanted to make a kind of music, a weaving of the different places and voices. Or, if you like, a series of impressions, moments, which, taken together, would paint a whole picture. 

Carol: I loved the "List of Things" at the end where you listed important objects in the story. Why did you include it?

Leigh: Thank you for saying this, it makes me very  happy. “A List of Things” was very important to me. It gives the reader a way of re-experiencing the story through the objects that appear in it. It also grounds the story, because almost all the objects are real things that I found in my research. And when I would suddenly make a find, I would know: yes, this needs to be part of the story. So when I began getting to the end, I wanted to pay homage to the objects that had found their way into the story. They were such an important part of the voyage, they were like friends who had helped me find my way forward. 

It was also something of a musical idea, a gathering together of objects like notes, pulling them out of the story a bit like archeological findings. I also had to choose because had the list been longer, it would have become tedious. (I know because I tried.) It had to be just the right length. An ending that carries you back into the river...
Thank you Leigh, for your insights into your book and to namelos for providing a copy to give away! 

If you want to enter, please leave a comment by December 5. Share it on Facebook or the social media of your choice and I'll enter your name twice. 


Rosi said...

This book sounds wonderful. I want to read it!!! I posted your link on FB. Thanks for the review, fascinating interview, and the chance to win.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Rosi. Your name has started the list--twice!

Melodye said...

Oh wow. I believe I've found a kindred spirit...!!!! So many things have me smiling, have me humming & nodding YES!

Kim said...

Thanks for posting Carol. The review made me want to read the book and I enjoyed the interview. Enjoy reading your blog - makes me itch to get back to mine!


Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Melodye & KIm. Glad you enjoyed--the book is so much better!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Carol, another great review. I don't need to be entered in the drawing, but do want Connie to know that this sounds like an intriguing read set in NC!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda!

sheri levy said...

Carol, your interviews and your reviews create so much interest in the stories you cover. River Music sounds wonderful! I can't wait to feel the music and read it!!
I am posting this on a number of FB pages!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri, for sharing this review. Your name is in twice!

sarahsbookreflections said...

Good interview, as always, Carol. I'd love to read the book. It sounds beautiful. Sarah

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sarah. You're in!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

What are the chances of arranging for me to win this one? Because I really want it. That's enough - right?

Carol Baldwin said...

I knew you would want it Joyce. It's a good thing I use to choose the winner. Because I know several readers who want this book!