Summary and book reviews of Riverine by Angela Palm

Riverine

A Memoir from Anywhere but Here

by Angela Palm

Riverine by Angela Palm
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2016, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

A spellbinding memoir of place, young love, and a life-altering crime.

Angela Palm grew up in a place not marked on the map, her house set on the banks of a river that had been straightened to make way for farmland. Every year, the Kankakee River in rural Indiana flooded and returned to its old course while the residents sandbagged their homes against the rising water. From her bedroom window, Palm watched the neighbor boy and loved him in secret, imagining a life with him even as she longed for a future that held more than a job at the neighborhood bar. For Palm, caught in this landscape of flood and drought, escape was a continually receding hope.

Though she did escape, as an adult Palm finds herself drawn back, like the river, to her origins. But this means more than just recalling vibrant, complicated memories of the place that shaped her, or trying to understand the family that raised her. It means visiting the prison where the boy that she loved is serving a life sentence for a brutal murder. It means trying to chart, through the mesmerizing, interconnected essays of Riverine, what happens when a single event forces the path of her life off course.

MAP OF HOME

Every map is a fiction.
— D. J. Waldie

I used to spend hours poring over the state road map, perplexed by the way towns and cities were annotated. Here was a small pink dot called Hebron, its name typed neatly in a little sans serif font. I moved my finger across light yellow paper, then across a wavy blue line until it touched the next pink dot. This one was called DeMotte. This was where I lived. In the pink dot called DeMotte in the map of Indiana. But our address was Hebron, Indiana, and not DeMotte, Indiana. Knowing little of governance and less of mapping, I rested my eyes curiously on the yellow paper—what was between the two pink-dot towns? A vast patch of nothing? How could we reside in both towns, yet seemingly in neither at the same time? Where did one town start and the other end? Was there an unnamed part between the two that was up for grabs? I wanted to conquer that yellow land and write myself all over it: this part, this swath of land right here,...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

These evocative meditations on "place as lifeline" and personality as mutable will urge you to reconsider your own path – what has brought you to where you are now and what has remained the same during the drifting, unexpected course of a life.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (638 words).

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Media Reviews

Booklist

Moving meditations on how memories continue to affect one's ever-changing personality, however far away we may move.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This is a memoir to linger over, savor and study.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An intelligent, evocative, and richly textured memoir.

Author Blurb Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
Angela Palm's gorgeous candor sings urgently through these pages, her prose a tuning fork offering frequencies I'd never heard before.

Author Blurb Brigid Hughes, Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize judge
Riverine is a beautiful book - both expansive and intimate - about homecoming and departure, the American ideal of reinvention and the ways we are bound to and bound by the past.

Author Blurb Domingo Martinez, author of The Boy Kings of Texas
Angela Palm's Riverine is the stuff good memoir is made of: a personal narrative rich in metaphor and insight that finds meaning in those memories that confused us as children, made us squirm as adults. A truly lovely book crafted with exquisite language.

Author Blurb Will Boast, author of Epilogue
With a probing curiosity for the topography of both the land and the mind, Angela Palm maps out a world of deep quiet, loneliness, and sudden violence. Riverine reminds us that, while their land may be flat, the lives of those who populate our prairies and flood plains are anything but

Author Blurb Molly Caro May, author of The Map of Enough
Angela Palm delivers a lyrical story - we come of age with her as she navigates a complicated landscape within and surrounding her ... There are sentences so arresting, I paused and paused and paused to absorb them.

Author Blurb Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream and Life Among Giants
A beautiful book, heartfelt but literary, blunt but poetic, moving and wise, funny, too.

Reader Reviews

Heather Graham

Eloquent-dull-eloquent-dull...repeat
Wanted to love it. Truly. Parts are well written...eloquent even. Then...completely lackluster. This pattern is repeated throughout the entire book. Just as I wanted the author to redeem herself after a monotonous segment, she did...only to dive back...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Criminal Justice Theories

In the second half of her memoir, Riverine, Angela Palm uses terms she learned from her college criminal justice classes as headings to organize the material. Here's a closer look at a few:

The Broken Windows Theory

Abandoned hospital with broken windows In 1982, social scientists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling proposed the broken windows theory to explain why particular neighborhoods become prone to crime. Essentially they viewed criminality as an incremental progression, starting with misdemeanors and moving up to serious infractions; thus, rather than focusing on major crimes, they started small. Living in an unsafe community where disorder reigns – where broken windows remain unrepaired and so it feels like the local government and the police do not care ...

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