Sometimes a River Song

Written by Avril Joy
Review by Janet Hancock

The river of the title is a tributary of the Mississippi. The book opens with “River in our blood”, a monologue in the hesitant, uneducated voice of fifteen-year-old Aiyana, who is part of a riverboat community in 1930s Arkansas. The story continues in her voice, apart from a few later chapters which are narrated by Silas, the mysterious incomer to whom she is given by her abusive father. Aiyana is desperate to learn to read and to escape male domination and brutality. Her only comfort is with those around her: her grandmother, a Native American; December, her mulatto sweetheart; and her brother Lyle, with whom she plots escape. However, December and Lyle both leave the river. Aiyana, determined, spirited, and with insight beyond her years, makes her own plans.

Sometimes a River Song is a poignant, harrowing, tale of secrets, lies, scores to be settled, and the river in its moods and seasons. It is written in beautiful, fluid prose. I could hear Aiyana’s voice and longed for her to triumph. Recommended.