Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Lies a River Deep" by Vera Jane Cook

Lies a River Deep
by Vera Jane Cook

Lies a River Deep is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

In the summer of 1962, at a high school graduation party, Bessie Day Hardy is victim to a brutal crime. Fifty years later, the consequences of that horrific night will transition into unforeseen events that will shatter her serene and uncomplicated life.

It was a day like any other. Days have a sameness, even new, they offer little beyond weather changes and sudden deaths.
“And how are you today?” Bessie asked, showing a smile that age had not yet dulled. She’d always been cute because of it. Sixty years ago, or more, she was the little girl whose cheeks you pinched, and though she was old now, she still wore her hair in curls; silver grey undulations that framed her face and brought out a blithe desire in others to pinch where her dimples dipped, even to kiss her there unabashedly.
Grey looked up and nodded. “Same,” he said.
The air was damp with April moisture as Bessie Day Hardy wrapped her scarf closer to her neck and shivered. Air that hung heavy like wet clothes caught flapping in the rain made it hard to breathe. The scarf had been a gift in a white torn box, under red Santa Claus wrapping, from the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Apostle Christmas party, just last year. The lime green and caramel colored wool that she loved to feel against her lips, an anonymous kindness from someone who had written: Bless you and have a very Merry Christmas. Someone, she imagined with fresh white skin, pearl teeth and eyes that sparkled blue in daylight, light as the sea, but darkened with the night, turning cenereal behind the shadows of dusk.
“We ever going to see the sun again?” She sighed. A wind kicked around the corner and her body felt the chill, enemy winds that carried the threat of sodden attacks to bones too brittle to fight. Later, she would feel the ache and she would rub her muscles more for the distraction than the release of pain.
“If we live long enough,” Grey said.
Bessie chuckled. Living long wasn’t the blessing it used to be. Aging was in the way. Couldn’t leave a person alone, had to show up and make her breath short, expose every damn vein in her body and give her the unsightly imprint of impending death. Nobody wants to look at mortality too closely and aging people carry its threat, vulnerably apparent; the weight of its nearness is a monster in the wings where heaven is a nebulous and cracked mirror; don’t look into it, the young whisper: don’t look yet.
But the old were once young. Bessie Day Hardy still carried the traces of adolescent giddiness in the creases of her lips and her middle-aged ardor for Chauncey Hardy still glinted in her eyes at the memory of his smooth hands in hers, and his fine soft hair against her breast. His step was lively. She could hear it, sometimes, when the house was quiet. Chauncey’s step on the stairs, in the kitchen, on the bedroom floor.
Damn house was quiet now, even her cat walked too softly to hear.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"Air that hung heavy like wet clothes caught flapping in the rain made it hard to breathe."
"There was no such thing as early summer in Chaanakya. There was just winter and summer's serendipitous surprise visits, impromptu afternoons of sun, teasing heat that flirtatiously bade farewell too soon, and August slipped away too quickly, and the leaves displayed their palette of read and gold, chromatic leaves that snapped and cracked in the cold air and disappeared into backyard flames."
"Why do some men die before the crow's feet form around their eyeas and the boredom of daily living sets in their smile like granite spokes? Not that she wished it were otherwise. It would have been a sin to wish for a shift in god's plan, but as a young woman she'd wanted it, that shift, that turn of fate, she'd wanted it so badly that the unfathomable repercussions of her unthinkable prayer got twisted and gnarled around her heart until her very breath was a tiresome chore."
"... subtlety was where love was first recognized, and if you couldn't see what separates one man from the next, then everyone was the same, and it would never matter who you loved."
"When friends stopped coming by, the days were upset by it, the redundancy of routine, once altered, needed to find new distractions, like puzzle pieces that need connection in order to form a whole."
"Summer was a gift bestowed upon the survivors of winter's wrath."
About the Seneca River: "It spread out silently, like silken stillness, a black sheath at night, its own galaxy, glistening back with a language all its own, filled with river demons and sprightly fairies."
"Only the river knew what was inside a person. Only the river knew the great sorrows ... the unwise deception. No answers ever flowed forth from the river's edge, but sometimes it seemed to smile ..."
About Davy: "He'd grown up grinning. Boy didn't know he lived in a trailer and his mother could barely feed him. He probably had one trillion grins behind him and held the world's record for the most grins for five-year-old boys."
"Your eyes are like the river at night, Bessie ... dark and dreamy."

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Bessie is a seventy-year-old widow living in Chaanakya, New York, with only her cat Spider for company. She devotes most of her time to Francine and her son Davy, who were abandoned by Richard a few years ago, leaving them destitute. The story in interspersed with flashbacks to when Bessie was a junior in high school, fifty years ago. Bessie was going out with Roland, and things were fine until Roland's brother Bart returned to town. Then a series of tragic events conspired to ruin the lives of many, and the repercussions are still being felt today. But what really happened the night of Roland's graduation? What lies were told, and what secrets are still being kept?
This is a story of family secrets and lies and the consequences every action can have. The title can be interpreted in a couple of ways, depending on whether "lies" is used as a noun or a verb. The Seneca River, which runs alongside Bessie's house, is a character in its own right and is featured in many scenes. The language is poetic and lyrical and flows much like the river itself. There are a few minor editing errors but not enough to detract from the reading experience. Interestingly, some parts of the story are told from the point-of-view of Bessie's cat, Spider; this device provides some unusual insights, but I'm not convinced it is necessary.
An emotional and satisfying read.

About the Author
Pharaoh's Star is Vera Jane Cook's most recent release. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was Vera Jane’s second southern fiction novel and was a finalist in the ForeWord book of the Year Awards for 2012 and received a five star ForeWord Clarion review, as well as an Eric Hoffer honorable mention award for ebookfiction in 2013. Dancing Backward in Paradise also received a 5 Star Clarion ForeWord review and an Eric Hoffer notable new fiction award in 2006, as well as the Indie Excellence Award in 2006. Also by Vera Jane Cook: Lies a River Deep, Where the Wildflowers Grow, Marybeth, Hollister & Jane, and Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem. Her next novel, Pleasant Day will be published in 2015 by Moonshine Cove Press.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of Marybeth, Hollister & Jane by Vera Jane Cook.