The River We Remember

William Kent Krueger's The River We Remember is the story of a close-knit farm town simmering with secrets. On Memorial Day in 1958, the people of Jewel, Minn., honor the town's veterans with a traditional parade through the three-block business district. But soon "hatred from wars long past and wars more recent" reveals it "still had hooks set in so many hearts." Krueger (Ordinary Grace) displays his deep affection for nature, describing Jewel's setting as having "wild oats and goldenrod and blazing star and a dozen other wildflowers"; these line the lane to the Alabaster River, which "shimmered gold in the late afternoon light." But on this spring day, the bucolic site is tainted: Black Earth County's wealthiest landowner is floating in the Alabaster, the victim of a shotgun blast. As sheriff Brody Dern investigates the apparent murder of the notoriously cruel and heartless Jimmy Quinn, public sentiment targets Noah Bluestone, a Sioux whose ancestors were driven from the county. Bluestone returned from World War II with a Japanese wife, doubling the disdain of vocal racists. Tension builds as Dern searches for motives.

Krueger's well-developed citizens of Jewel provide multiple subplots. Quinn's survivors don't mourn; a colorful woman public defender gains the Bluestones' trust; two adolescent boys flirt with danger; and Dern grapples with the investigation while finally facing the emotional war wounds and truths buried in his heart. Quinn's death isn't tragic, but the fallout threatens deeply sympathetic townspeople, keeping readers mesmerized through the unpredictable climax of this often tender, evocative novel. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

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