Reviews for In the River Sweet


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 August 2002
Ruth Anne Bond is a middle-aged, midwestern wife and mother happily settled into the rhythm of her life. She and her husband, Johnny, share romance and strength gained from the love for each other gained over time. Ruth Anne enjoys her work at the town library and local Catholic church. The Vietnam era is but a distant time--a memory for Ruth Anne, who worked at a French convent during the war, and for Johnny, a former American GI and POW. But conflict, like a river current, swiftly moves her life away from the comfortable, quiet existence she loved. Her daughter, Laurel, has announced that she is a lesbian and in love with the cook who works at Johnny's restaurant. And the half-Vietnamese son she left behind has contacted her and wants to meet. The author carefully charts the tumult of emotions that Ruth Anne goes through as she worries about her son, now living in the Midwest, and how to share this secret with her family. Will it wreck her relationship with her husband? ((Reviewed August 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2002 July #1
Poet, storywriter, and second-novelist Henley (Hummingbird House, 1999) offers a historical romance that goes back and forth between the contemporary Midwest and 1960s Vietnam.Ruth Anne Bond is quiet and self-effacing, a devout Catholic and devoted wife and mother, who works at the town library in Tarkington, Indiana. She doesn't always see eye-to-eye with Father Carroll, but she shares his discomfort with homosexuality: Ruth's daughter Laurel has recently declared herself a lesbian, and Ruth is torn between her love of Laurel and her disapproval. Not that Ruth has never strayed herself-she had a doomed affair with a man in Vietnam many years before-but there are certain lines she simply can't cross. One day, however, her past comes back to haunt her when she receives an e-mail from a Tin Tran, who claims to be Ruth's son. The Vietnamese affair is now more than a distant memory, and Ruth needs to learn how to organize the disparate elements of her life. Tin is getting married, and his fiancée naturally wants to know something of his family history. Slowly Ruth recalls the steps that took her to Vietnam, where she worked as librarian in a convent of French nuns in order to be closer to her husband-to-be, Johnny. But there she also met Vo, who became her lover and the father of her first child. Overwhelmed by past (Tin invites her to his wedding) and present (Laurel and her girlfriend decide to buy a house together), Ruth goes to Michigan to stay in the convent where a childhood friend of hers, now a nun, has lived for over 20 years. She also tries to bring about a reconciliation with her elderly aunt, now in a nursing home run by the convent. There is, as everyone knows, a period of middle age wherein almost everyone ends up regretting the compromises of youth. Will Ruth manage?Sentimental, but readable and sincere all the same.Author tour Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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Library Journal Reviews 2002 June #2
What could upset the life of devoted, happily married Ruth Anne? Being tracked down by her illegitimate son. Henley's Hummingbird House was a finalist for both the National Book Award and The New Yorker Best Fiction Book Award, so she's poised for success. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal Reviews 2002 August #1
Ruth Anne Bond has been happily married for more than 25 years. Judging from appearances, things couldn't be better: her relationship remains loving, her spouse owns a thriving restaurant, and she spends her days aiding the good Father Carroll in a small-town Indiana parish. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a confluence of events shatters this domestic peace. First, Ruth Anne's adult daughter, Laurel, announces that she is a lesbian. While Ruth Anne loves her child, this news sends her reeling, forcing her to reconsider the homophobia promulgated by her beloved Catholic Church. But before she can fully process what is happening, a disturbing e-mail from a man who claims to be Ruth Anne's son causes her to confront a history she has spent decades denying. Vexing questions about commitment, faith, forgiveness, and love make Ruth Anne scrutinize the personal politics that control her life. Henley's second novel following National Book Award finalist Hummingbird House weaves important issues into a compelling story. Although spiritually disinclined readers will find its theological bent excessive, it is recommended for all public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/02.] Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 September #5
Henley returns with a worthy successor to her first novel, Hummingbird House. The heroine, Ruth Anne Bond, is a woman of 50, living in Indiana; Johnny, her husband of nearly 30 years, is the proprietor of an upscale restaurant. Everything seems picture perfect until devoutly Catholic Ruth Anne learns that their only daughter, Laurel, is a lesbian. While she adjusts to this revelation (she is more upset by the Church's intolerance than by the fact itself), her own secret past catches up with her: she is contacted by Tin, the illegitimate son she conceived with a blind Vietnamese boy when she was a teenager working in a convent in Saigon. The moral dilemmas attendant upon living with such a secret are sensitively treated and readers' sympathies for each of the troubled characters will be fully engaged. Written from the point of view of Ruth Anne, the tale unfolds in her memories as she relives the events resulting from her stay in Vietnam. But she must also focus on her current problems, including marital discord and a violent attack on Laurel and her lover, Oceana. Though the plot moves back and forth in time a great deal, it is enhanced rather than weakened by this strategy. Henley, who is also a poet, balances long, stream-of-consciousness passages with short, potent sentences to wonderful effect, tilling the familiar ground of sexuality and spirituality with originality and grace. (Oct. 1) Forecast: Henley's work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize anthology and The Best American Short Stories, and Hummingbird House was a 1999 National Book Award finalist. Expect more of the same kind of attention for her latest. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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