Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison

4.5 Star
Neil Kazenzakis is barely holding his life together: ever since an accident left his wife profoundly disabled, he's been doing his best as a single dad and popular high school teacher. He's also been dealing with Lauren Downey, his sort-of girlfriend of the past two years who's pushing for a commitment—and for Neil to finally tell his son Christopher about their secret relationship.

Neil's carefully balanced world begins to fall apart when some questionable footage of him is anonymously posted to YouTube...just as Chris learns about Lauren in the worst possible way. Doubting his own recollection of the events in the online video and threatened with the loss of his job and the ability to care for his wife, Neil must find a way to prove the truth to his family, his community, and himself as he struggles to regain the splintered trust of his son.

Lydia - 4.5 Star

The Banks of Certain Rivers is a fresh, fun, easy read with fantastic characters you can’t help but root for. I became immersed immediately in Neil’s life and found myself worrying whether everything would work out for him in the end.

Harrison creates such strong empathy for Neil straight out of the gate. He is so kind, compassionate, and stuck in a really, really, crappy predicament. He’s in love with a girl that is not his wife, which sounds really bad. But it’s not in the way you think. It’s actually much, much worse. Neil’s wife suffered a tragic accident and remains brain dead. He’s half in one life and half in another. And then there’s his son, Christopher, to consider, who has no clue about Neil's girlfriend of several years and his mother in law whose dementia is worsening and to whom his girlfriend, Lauren, is a part-time caregiver. And if all that wasn’t complicated enough, a video surfaces involving one of his students, causing even more chaos.

You can’t help but empathize with Neil because of the above, and well, because he’s such a good guy. Really. I was a smidgen jealous of Lauren. She is one lucky lady.  All of the characters are wonderful and how much they all care about each other is magnificently portrayed. It is clear how loving Neil is and the fantastic job he did raising Christopher alone is clearly evident. Although the two make mistakes, love abounds and I really liked this as well as how they end up coming to terms with their situation.

Another thing I really enjoyed is that the ‘video’ isn’t what we are led to believe from the outset and this made the novel unique and not as cliché to me. There were some other unexpected things that popped up and even things I anticipated seemed fresh and interesting so I never rolled my eyes and went 'saw that coming.' Because even if I did, I still enjoyed it.

The Banks of Certain Rivers was very real for me, like I was walking alongside the characters - and feeling so completely immersed is such a wonderful way to read a novel.

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