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Where the River Runs
ISBN 0-451-21505-2

By Patti Callahan Henry
Review by: Michelle Humphrey


Meridy Dresden’s been Stepfordized. In her blissfully nondescript suburbia, she goes through the motions of being a lawyer’s upbeat coifed-and-manicured wife, hobnobbing with other local women who are either: a) the discarded First Wife or b) the soon-to-be Second Wife, gorgeous and predatory. Realizing she’s unhappy and not the subversive free spirit she was in her girlhood days, Meridy embarks on a journey back to herself, returning home to South Carolina and confronting her past—namely, her role in a high school tragedy that resulted in the death of her then-boyfriend Danny Garrett.

A number of moral idioms gather at the surface – stop looking for what you already have, open your heart, live all the parts of your life – and they’re overt enough to spoil the narrative, especially when our bare-all, self-questioning characters express cliches that suddenly transform them into overblown preachers. In the novel’s more penetrating moments, when author Patti Callahan Henry has something to say beyond adages, there are biting confrontations between Meridy and her husband Beau, or – better – between our heroine and her repressed and bitter mother Harriet. The character of Tulu, a radiant Gullah woman with wise ancient instincts, treads close to stereotype, yet at the same time she embodies the one character with a well-formed sense of self, and we cling to her like an exuberantly offbeat aunt -- she deserves her own book (which could truly flesh her out), but we'll have to make due with brief cameos, complete with her omens and long, buoyant laughter that rolls off the page.

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