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Reviews of Go as a River by Shelley Read

Go as a River

A Novel

by Shelley Read

Go as a River by Shelley Read X
Go as a River by Shelley Read
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  • Published:
    Feb 2023, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

Set amid Colorado's wild beauty, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story of a resilient young woman whose life is changed forever by one chance encounter. A tragic and uplifting novel of love and loss, family and survival—and hope.

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Nash runs the household on her family's peach farm in the small ranch town of Iola, Colorado—the sole surviving female in a family of troubled men. Wilson Moon is a young drifter with a mysterious past, displaced from his tribal land and determined to live as he chooses.

Victoria encounters Wil by chance on a street corner, a meeting that profoundly alters both of their young lives, unknowingly igniting as much passion as danger. When tragedy strikes, Victoria leaves the only life she has ever known. She flees into the surrounding mountains where she struggles to survive in the wilderness with no clear notion of what her future will bring. As the seasons change, she also charts the changes in herself, finding in the beautiful but harsh landscape the meaning and strength to move forward and rebuild all that she has lost, even as the Gunnison River threatens to submerge her homeland—its ranches, farms, and the beloved peach orchard that has been in her family for generations.

Inspired by true events surrounding the destruction of the town of Iola in the 1960s, Go as a River is a story of deeply held love in the face of hardship and loss, but also of finding courage, resilience, friendship, and, finally, home—where least expected. This stunning debut explores what it means to lead your life as if it were a river—gathering and flowing, finding a way forward even when a river is dammed.



He wasn't much to look at.
Not at first, anyway.

"Pardon," the young man said, a grimy thumb and forefinger tugging at the brim of his tattered red ball cap. "This the way to the flop?" 

As simple as that. This ordinary question from a filthy stranger walking up Main Street just as I arrived at the intersection with North Laura. 

His overalls and hands were blackened with coal, which I assumed was axle grease or layers of dirt from the fields, though it was too dark for either. His cheeks were smudged. Tan skin shone through trickled sweat. Straight black hair jutted from beneath his cap. 

The autumn day had begun as ordinary as the porridge and fried eggs I had served the men for breakfast. I noticed nothing uncommon as I went on to tend the house and the docile animals in their pens, picked two baskets of late-season peaches in the cool morning air, and made my daily deliveries pulling the rickety wagon behind my bicycle, then returned ...

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The best part of the novel is Victoria herself. Read creates such a lifelike, three-dimensional character that I woke up one morning wondering how my friend was doing, only realizing after a second that the person I was worried about wasn't flesh and blood. In short, Go as a River is a truly stellar work, so nearly perfect that it's hard to believe it's Shelley Read's first book. It earns my highest rating and is one of my favorites of the year. I recommend it to most audiences, particularly those who enjoy brilliantly written coming-of-age works. Book groups, too, will want to put this one on their reading lists, as many great discussion topics can be found within its pages...continued

Full Review Members Only (580 words)

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Denver Post
Beautiful ... A striking first novel of love and strength and growth, set against the forests and rivers of Colorado's high country. Read is a gifted writer, and the book is a literary triumph."

Real Simple
With gorgeous descriptions of the great outdoors, an illicit love story, and an unforgettable protagonist, Go as a River offers something for everyone.

The i Paper
Evocative ... moving ... fascinating... .Through lush imagery of the natural world, Go as a River shows the possibility of growing in the most challenging of circumstances, the power that flows through us, and how the natural world can give us the strength to keep on going.

Irish Examiner
Shelley Read creates a truly convincing and lovable character in Torie, who faces loss and despair, and has to make a decision which is driven by love, yet tragic for herself. It's a captivating novel, impossible to put down and one which will be remembered long after reading it.

Lyrical ... Read, a fifth-generation Coloradan, draws characters and settings with period authenticity, stunning imagery, and deft metaphors.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Read delicately unfurls the growing attraction between Torie and Wil, set against vicious bigotry toward Native Americans. Their love is the "small fateful twist" that forever changes the trajectory of Torie's life. With delicate precision, Read evokes both Colorado's rugged wilderness and the landscapes of her characters' troubled hearts. An auspicious debut.

The Independent (UK)
This soaring, compassionate tale of female resilience is set against a breath-taking picture of our natural world – its trees and mountains and light.

Author Blurb Adriana Trigiani, author of The Good Left Undone
Shelley Read has written a splendid American Gothic tale of a young woman broken by circumstances who must find a way to forgive before she can love. Victoria Nash is a character for the ages as she navigates loss and despair on the road to redemption. The vast plains and desert canyons of her Colorado home are filled with ghosts until a mysterious drifter arrives and changes the course of her life forever. Go as a River is a stunning debut set in the soul of the American dream."

Author Blurb Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry
Shelley Read's lyrical voice is a force of nature, and when she lends it to a woman leading a hardscrabble life in rural Colorado, the result is tragic, uplifting - and completely unforgettable.

Author Blurb Jane Green, author of Sister Stardust
Completely spellbinding, vivid, and luminous.

Author Blurb Meg Waite Clayton, internationally bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris
Shelley Read's devastatingly beautiful debut, Go as a River, delivers so very much: the tenderness and curiosity of young love, the eternal pangs of loss, the brutality of racism, the sustaining power of nature even in the face of man's destruction, and the precarious miracle of a mother's love. Suffused with wisdom and compassion, this shattering testimony to life is one to be savored, treasured, shared.

Author Blurb Tiffany Quay Tyson, author of The Past Is Never
In Go as a River, Shelley Read delivers a heartbreaking and uplifting tale of a girl becoming a woman in a man's world. Young Victoria Nash is as tough and resilient as the Colorado mountains where she takes refuge, and as tender as the peaches that are her family legacy. Book clubs will love this redemptive story.

Reader Reviews

Janet Gardner

Lovely book and very well written
Our book club has just finished this book, which was chosen because the author is from our area. The book is beautifully written and the love story is a tribute to anti-racial beliefs.

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Beyond the Book

A Brief History of the Peach

Baskets full of peachesIn Shelley Read's debut novel, Go as a River, the heroine's life revolves around her peach farm in Colorado.

Genetically the peach is part of the rose family, but its closest relative is the almond. Its genera, Prunus, also includes cherry, apricot and plum trees. While its formal name, Prunus persica, translates to "Persian plum," it's believed that peaches were first cultivated in China. Archeological evidence points to orchards in Zhejiang Provence as early as 6000 BCE.

Peaches spread across the globe over the ensuing millennia. While the fruit itself is relatively fragile, the seeds grow readily and are easily transported, making them easy to propagate. After becoming established in the Middle East, peaches arrived in Europe ...

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