The River of Kings

Written by Taylor Brown
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Taylor Brown’s second novel tells the story of two brothers, Lawton and Hunter, who decide to travel down the iconic Altamaha River to scatter the ashes of their father, a man who showed his love by “showing us the river—his river. I believe he let us into his heart, at least some part of it. And that’s how I knew we were loved.”

While the boys might have been loved by a ‘hard’ man, they have their own battles, an accumulation of resentments that have accrued over their growing-up time. They see the world differently and blame each other for their failures.

But the boys are not the only ones on the river. Travelling beside them are the ghosts of explorers of New France in 1564. Here, on the river, artist Jacques Le Moyne seeks to capture the rivers and streams on paper for the king of France. His men hope for treasure, but find a river monster, the Altamaha-ha, rumored for centuries to swim in these waters.

Told in alternating chapters, these river trips give time and space to settle old arguments and hurts, and maybe create new ones. The pace is very slow, but the descriptions of the flora and fauna found along the river are lush and rich. As the brothers, a study in contrast, travel downriver, they are also moving in slow arcs toward each other and some sort of peace.