Like a River Glorious, by Rae Carson

like a riverLeah Westfall is now in California with the remains of the ragtag group she traveled west with in Walk on Earth a Stranger. Her uncle is still after her, and she knows she has to let some of her closest companions in on her secret ability to sense gold.

I was very wary going into this book. Too many of the books I’ve read lately – even highly anticipated ones –  have sifted straight through my brain without making an impression. I absolutely did not want to do that to this book. I’ve been dying to read it, though, and finally broke down to try. Figured that if it wasn’t working out, I could always save it for later. And thankfully, though I think I engaged less than I would if my brain was working properly, I did actually enjoy the book! There were two things that really struck me and that I want to focus on in this review.

First, Carson does a phenomenal job of highlighting social injustices without becoming too heavy-handed. Background to the plot is the plight of Native Americans (both the stealing of their land, and the way they were rounded up and used as worse than slave labor), the treatment of Chinese immigrants, and the lack of rights for women. This was all especially poignant given the current climate in our country. Carson never actually connects the two situations, but the connection is so blatantly clear that it would be difficult for a reader to not make it. It’s all done in a way, though, that doesn’t feel like there are neon signs pointing to the injustice yelling, “Here! See? We’ve done this before and it’s BAD!” This was the way life was at the time, and Carson doesn’t gloss over those negative things, but there is also a plot on top of all that. It’s a balance I appreciate.

Second, and probably most important to me, is the discussion of family and “home.” I think this hit me so hard because I feel so very far away from family and home these days, and so books that center on groups of people who become family or tribe over time – those speak directly to my heart. So many of these characters were foreign to each other when they first started traveling together, and now they’re bound to each other by so many things. New characters join the group, and when Leah begins to realize that “home” is not a place but a collection of people, I admit that I cried. Some authors just really nail large group friendship dynamics, and Carson is definitely one of them.

I look forward to seeing where this series goes in the future.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2016, Prose, Young Adult and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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