Three Rivers Rising
Three Rivers Rising is the story of the 1889 Johnstown Flood, a terrible situation when too much rain caused a weak reservoir to burst and over 2000 lives were lost in the ensuing flood. Amid this disaster, author Jame Richards has placed her characters as eyewitnesses to the catastrophe; written in verse form, those characters give us a poignant view of loss, recovery, and redemption.
The tale mostly revolves around Celestia, the rich daughter of unforgiving parents, and her star-crossed relationship with Peter, a worker at the high society hotel where her family often stays. Celestia is determined to be with Peter, even though her family has already suffered the devastation of a “ruined” older sister, and it is her decision to leave the hotel and travel into Johnstown to find Peter that puts her directly in the path of the flood. Meanwhile, her life intersects with that of young nurse Kate and young wife Maura, both struggling with the paths their lives have taken. The story moves among several points of view to give the reader a wide scope of the disaster, with each character giving his or her own voice to the horror that overtakes both them and the town.
Richards’ story is spare yet full, and she builds tension well as the story moves into its ultimate climax. The verse concept makes the story move along so quickly that I found I had finished the book in just a few hours and the author’s note at the end tells how she wove factual details into her fictional tale. I came away from the book feeling as though I had not only learned something, but had literally been swept away. Well written and engaging.