Swift River

Swift River


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Publishes 11/06/2024

Susan's Review 

Someone once told me that the word ‘river’ in a title boosts a novel’s chances of critical and/or commercial success. Kate Grenville’s The Secret River: check. V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River: check. Pierre Boulle’s The Bridge over the River Kwai: check. Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time and the River. Ernest Hemingway’s Across the River and into the Trees: check. And so on …

Essie Chambers’ confronting, affecting and sometimes humorous debut novel Swift River belongs to this notable list. Narrated by a mixed-race young woman called Diamond Newbury – her father is a black African, her mother white – hers is a story of paternal abandonment, a fraught mother-daughter bond, unexpected friendship, and casual and brutal racism. Set in the 1980s in a dying New England mill town called Swift River, Diamond’s story of disillusionment and loneliness begins to change when she receives a letter from a family member she has never met. She discovers a heritage she didn’t know she was missing, and which reaches back in time through other letters from the early years of the century.

Swift River essentially explores the cost of desire. Diamond’s father longs for oblivion, while her mother wishes to simply leave her memories behind. But Diamond dreams of a more fulfilling life, a future beyond the racism and misogyny of her depleted town. The novel creates a vivid sense of place and a wide range of convincing characters, as well as a thoroughly engaging sense of voice. Diamond wavers between despair and hope, a sense of shame and self-belief, naivete and an astute understanding of other people’s flaws, including her own. A memorable character in a memorable novel that will keep you guessing the outcome until the final page.

Publisher’s Review 

What if the price of moving forward is losing the only family you've ever known?

Summer, 1987. On the sweltering streets of the dying New England mill town of Swift River, sixteen-year-old Diamond Newbury is desperately lonely. It's been seven years since her father disappeared, and while her mother is determined to move on, Diamond can't distance herself from his memory. When Diamond receives a letter from a relative she has never met, she unearths long-buried secrets of her family's past and discovers a legacy she never knew she was missing. The more she learns, however, the harder it becomes to reconcile her old life with the one she wants to lead.

So begins an epic story spanning the twentieth century that reveals a much larger picture of prejudice and love, of devotion and abandonment - and will change Diamond's life forever.

'Swift River broke my heart, and then offered me hope.' - Ann Napolitano, author of HELLO BEAUTIFUL

'I love a novel this much maybe just once or twice a year.' - Curtis Sittenfeld, author of RODHAM and ROMANTIC COMEDY

'Told with warmth and humor by a memorable, irrepressible heroine.' - Rumaan Alam, author of LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND