Failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife, Eudora, have arrived in the sleepy Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank hopes to write a history of his family's old estate-the Savoyard Plantation- and the horrors that occurred there. At first, the quaint, rural ways of their new neighbors seem to be everything they wanted. But there is an unspoken dread that the townsfolk have lived with for generations. A presence that demands sacrifice.
It comes from the shadowy woods across the river, where the ruins of Savoyard still stand. Where a longstanding debt of blood has never been forgotten.
A debt that has been waiting patiently for Frank Nichols's homecoming...
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: September 6th 2011 by Ace Hardcover
ISBN: 0441020674 (ISBN13: 9780441020676)
The prologue is gripping. I ran through it like I was being chased, the few pages that it was. Mysterious and fascinating, but it went down hill from there. Christopher Buehlman rambles on and on and on. So much happens that is thought inside Frankie’s head. Pages and pages of his war dreams. And the sex. Yes, I know they’re young and in love, but we can get the idea without the gratuitous mentions of sex and sex acts? So much of this book is filler. Fluff. And NOT the good kind.
A period piece set in the mid 1930s, but you don’t find this out until you’re through the third chapter. Many things didn’t make sense until I knew the time period. I can appreciate a period piece, and Those Across the River is good a being a period novel. The language, the character's interactions, the melancholy overtones are all colored in a way that screams “1930s Rural Georgia” at the top of it’s lungs (well, I can assume they are since I’ve never been to 1930-something rural Georgia; I was born in the ‘80s and have only been to modern day rural Georgia, and only occasionally at that). I like that Buehlman wrote in Southern dialect when the locals “spoke",” but did not over do it. So, take out “those across the river,” and you're left with a simple period novel.
41% of my way through the book (my Kobo Touch keeps track of my progress that way…LOVE IT!) one tiny bit of scary has happened. Sure, daily life in 1930s Whitbrow, GA is interesting—getting a soda at the drug store, sitting on the park bench watching the tea roses grow, going to town hall meetings. The absolute most interesting part of this book so far is Martin Cramner, the taxidermist: he gets arrested for “public drunkenness and indecency and maybe vandalism, too” (page 140) after making a crown out of the town’s precious tea roses and proceeding to pee on the poor de-flowered plants. After 140 pages of dullness, shouldn’t there have been something more exciting happen? Where is all the shadowy creepiness from the plantation? Where is the excitement from the prologue??? The description did not do this book justice—it made it sound WAY better than it turned out to be.
It gets better, but only barely. The last, oh, 100ish pages are pretty good. ***SPOILER ALERT*** The town gets attacked, you see it coming, like the fat kid being the first one out in dodge ball. So, they get a posse together and cross the river a second time. Crazy good stuff happens (though fairly predictable). From there through the end of the book I COULD NOT STOP READING! And, for once, I find a book with a satisfyingly great ending. Oh, the glorious ending—it couldn’t have been better.
The question on everyone’s mind: Does the small amount of good preside over the bad? No. I forced myself through this book for the sake of review, since the publishers were kind enough to let me read it through netGalley, bored with every verbose page, long-winded thought, and blandly simple prose. There could have been a much better book salvaged from the wreckage that is Those Across the River. Do you get the feeling I hate this book? Because I do. I hate just about everything about this book, except for the ending. Not because the book was finally over, but because the last couple of pages were beautiful. It was a disappointing, tedious to read, and unnecessarily vulgar book.
1.5 Stars: Let this book cross the river alone.
*This book was provided to me by the publishers through netGalley*