The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger
Published by Atria Books
Publication date: September 5, 2023
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Summer is just beginning in the small town of Jewel, Minnesota when the body of Jimmy Quinn, one of the town’s wealthiest citizens, is discovered in the nearby river. Given that he was also one of the most disliked there are plenty of people in William Kent Krueger’s The River We Remember who wanted him dead and little enthusiasm on the part of Sheriff Brody Dern to find the killer. Especially as the man most of the town’s whites want to pursue is Noah Bluestone, a Native American recently fired by Quinn. A man who once he’s been arrested refuses legal aid or to speak in his own defense, leaving Brody to unravel the mysteries of Quinn’s death, while Krueger explores the mysteries in the living.
It’s the late 1950s and the specter of WWII still looms over Jewel and in the minds of many of its residents. Brody is haunted by the brutality he witnessed and Noah, although he fought for his country, has had his return marred by the same racist slurs and discrimination he’s always experienced. He’s endured additional isolation and distrust by bringing back a Japanese wife. A woman Brody now has to turn to for answers despite the psychological scars he bears from his years in a Japanese POW camp.
At the forefront of the novel is the murder case, but what stands out most is the ease with which Krueger summons a world so completely, with even a river as a key element. The care and reverence with which he crafts The River We Remember is evident on every page; the clean, quiet lines of a skilled artist letting the story reveal itself. Even as additional plot lines unfold it’s naturally and with perfect pace.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the novel’s characters. Each and every one, from Quinn’s family and Noah’s wife to the owner of the local diner and her son, are perfectly rendered with the motivations, emotions, prejudices, and stories found in the real world. But it’s in the moments within Krueger’s prose, the sentences that cause pause, that make The River We Remember an immersive, not-to-be-missed gift for readers.
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