As people we struggle with many fears, one of the greatest being the realization that we will keep aging and that our attempts to slow the process are fruitless. That one day time as we know it shall stop, we will be dying, and we will be unable to change mistakes made in the past just as we are unable to take risks we didn't dare take before.
The River House uses this sobering thought as it's central theme, and does it effectively - particularly if you're a woman. It accurately portrays the overly common worries of middle-aged adults who see that life didn't turn out the way they had wished it would, and that dreams don't usually come true in the ways we quite hoped. When we're younger we hold on to the things that give us peace and security to make it through the rough times, thinking that these very things will be the ones that will enable us to achieve the most and become our best.
Sadly Ginnie, the protagonist, is one of those women. She's unhappy with her marriage, which, although a comfortable joining, is more of a stale friendship stuck in the routine of things, completely devoid of passion. Her husband is kind, considerate, and sweet...but also boring, lacking in romance, and tunes out into a world that has nothing to do with her own. They haven't made love in years, and attempts at counseling has failed. She's followed the trail many do, devoting her life to children and a career, yet now her eldest daughter is leaving the nest and she feels an empty hole she's not sure what to do with.
Wanting to try yet again, she embarks on a journey to rekindle the magic of her marriage, feeling that now since they have more privacy with the daughter gone, things can be less awkward. In reality she finds she cannot resurrect something that's not there in the first place. Sinking into a depression flavored by her best friend's misery, which ironically mirrors her own struggles, she slowly allows her to be pulled into passion outside the marriage.
The real heart of The River House lays in these internal struggles. Ginnie is not the kind of woman who sleeps around and steps out on her husband, yet her bitterness and resentment toward life propel her to do something she's always considered morally wrong. Her heavy conscience played on me the whole way, just as her desperate need to experience passion for the first time did.
The pacing is slow, but it fits comfortably with the type of book it is. I like that it is told through the first person, since it strongly enables the reader to sit tightly in the lead's head. Her emotions come through easily, and the pages are filled with genuine emotion and life. Author Leroy writes beautiful words, showing off an admirable classy talent, having each scene a joy to read simply because it's so expertly put. It ends, if you haven't already guessed, the only way this situation can, 'bitterly sweet.'
For the negative, more energy in some scenes would have helped. If more tension/action had been placed, it would have rated higher.A near dreamy state with this genre is the right one, but too much of it without relief can be a little emotionally cloying.
If I took anything from this book, I believe the lesson of it never being easy to tell what's really important and valuable, no matter how old you are.
As it stands, reading this novel will make your head feel dreamy and almost unreal; not an easy feat for any author to pull off. A touching story that is both tragic and beautiful in it's own way - much like real life.