Tuesday, December 20, 2005

All Rivers Flow to the Sea

When I checked this book out from the library I knew that "All Rivers Flow to the Sea" was cataloged as a teen fiction book. Normally, that is a reading level that I don't even look at, but this was written by one of my favorite authors, and Minnesota resident, Alison McGhee. McGhee is best known for her novels "Rainlight" and "Shadow Baby", but is also the author of two children's books and a young adult novel ("Snap"). Everything she has written has been quite excellent, though I didn't love "Snap" the way I did her three adult novels.

"All Rivers Flow to the Sea" is a short novel about a teenage girl dealing with grief and loss. Rose and her sister were in a car accident, another driver hit them and her sister has been in a coma for months. Her mother hasn't been to the hospital since the day of the accident. Rose does not know how to live her life alone because she has never been alone and going back to school she does not know how to deal with the looks and the whispers that her sister is a vegetable and someone should pull the plug. What Alison McGhee gives the reader is a very real feeling story about Rose and how she deals, acts out, comes back, and finds healing in her life and acceptance about her sister. This is a novel that presents a true human challenge for Rose and one that I do not remember reading about, and certainly not quite like this. Likely, this novel will appeal to teenage girls and girls who have had to deal with grief in their own lives.

Alison McGhee has done something remarkable with "All Rivers Flow to the Sea." Not only has she written an excellent short novel for a particular age group, she has written a novel that transcends the age group. If I didn't know that this was "teen fiction" I would easily put this among her adult novels. She doesn't talk down to her reader, she is incredibly sympathetic, and "All Rivers Flow to the Sea" happens to be just as good as "Rainlight" or "Shadow Baby". That is high praise indeed, because those two novels (especially "Rainlight") are exceptional.

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