River's Song by Melody Carlson is the first book in the Inn at Shining Waters series. In 1959, Anna Gunderson has returned to her family home on Oregon's Siuslaw River. She's spent the last nineteen years under the thumb of her controlling mother-in-law who often belittles her for her Native American heritage and has stolen the affections of her daughter, Lauren, through expensive gifts. Anna has come home to deal with the estate of her mother who recently passed away, leaving the land to Anna. Once home, Anna quickly finds her soul healing after decades of pain and numbness, the rhythm of life on the river reminds her of all that she has lost and of whom she is, including a Siuslaw Indian. She quickly decides to stay on the river and turn the old family store into a bed and breakfast, the Inn of the Shining Waters, named after one of the legends her Grandma Pearl often told her. I'm more familiar with Carlson's young adult stories, and this was a pleasant surprise. Anna is such a gentle and beautiful soul, I found myself aching and furious for the abuse she faced at Eunice's hands. The story grows naturally, at a steady pace, as Anna finds herself and some joy in life again. Carlson parallels the story of Anna's great-grandmother, who was forced from her home on the river to a reservation where she couldn't show her true self and was mocked and belittled before finding her way back home and making a good life. Anna's story follows this path, and Carlson's storytelling is elegant and restrained. This is not a loud or thrilling story full of explosions and blood; it's a quiet, yet beautiful story of a woman finding her way home and wanting to share that joy with others. I can't wait to read the next in the series.
Thank you to Glass Road Publicity for providing me with a copy of this book for review!