All Rivers Flow to the Sea by Alison McGhee

#85 in my book challenge for the year, All Rivers Flow to the Sea has all the trademarks of McGhee’s impressive collection of novels. It is sad and beautifully written. It focuses on new characters in her fictional town of Sterns, NY, but includes characters from former novels as well. This is a young adult novel whose main character, Rose Latham, struggles with grief as her sister languishes in a coma. Rose’s flawed coping behaviors, as well as the persistent people around her, are sharply touching and real. As with all of McGhee’s books, her characters continued to hang out in my mind after I finished the book, and I’m so glad to have them. They are wonderful company. I saw McGhee at the Twin Cities book fest recently, and she described her original three novels, Rainlight, Shadow Baby and Was It Beautiful?, as “saddest, sad, and sadder.” I’m not sure where she would place All Rivers Flow to the Sea on that continuum, but I think it falls into sadder, while her middle-grade novel Snap was sad. Someone asked which book she recommended reading to start. She said Shadow Baby, since it was not only an audience pleaser, but less sad than some of the others. I say, read them in order. Start with Rainlight, which is the saddest, but still my favorite. They’re all of a piece, and they’re all wonderful.

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