Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

During the summer of 1968, Shenny’s mother disappeared, leaving her and her twin sister Woody with their once-loving father who now drowns his sorrows in alcohol while trying to copy with the whole situation. Since then, twelve-year-old Shenny (who was named for the Shenandoah Valley), is trying to take care of herself and Woody, who stopped speaking the day their mother vanished. As her father threatens to send Woody away, Shenny is determined to find her mother before it’s too late. The young girl senses that Woody might know something about their mother’s disappearance, but since her twin sister doesn’t speak anymore, Shenny can’t seem to solve this mystery. However, when a series of events takes place, the young protagonist is ultimately forced to face the heart-breaking truth about her family and about what really happened to her mother.

When I first read the synopsis of Tomorrow River, I was intrigued by the sound of this book, mainly because I liked that the story is told from a child’s point of view. I find that whenever I read a story narrated by a young protagonist, it makes the book so much more interesting and special. I think that it has to do with the fact that a child has such a different view of the world and everything that surrounds us. Children often tend to see things that adults are likely to ignore and neglect, mainly because adults are too preoccupied with other things. Therefore, children are perfect for telling a story, because they are good at uncovering secrets and other mysteries. With their curiosity and honesty, children can find out so much and it’s their witty and ingenious questions that often make them perfect sleuths. That’s why I liked Tomorrow River so much! I must admit that I didn’t really care much about the plot, as it was Shenny who really stood out. You can’t help but feel sympathy for her and you long to help Shenny find her mother. I also deeply cared about Woody, since she seemed so fragile and even though she didn’t speak, she still communicated with Shenny in her own way. We see Woody through Shenny’s eyes and what we see is a wounded girl who will never be the same again, because of what she had witnessed the day her mother vanished.

Overall, I was really pleased with this novel and I really liked the fact that it had such a surprising ending. Like me, you have all probably read books with endings that did not really surprise you, as you already knew how they would end. Tomorrow River is different as the story evolves in an unexpected way and you will find that nothing is what it seems when it comes to this book. And I really like novels that take you by surprise and sweep you away!

I recommend Tomorrow River to everyone who likes to read an emotional and heart-breaking story about a girl who has to cope with the painful truth about her dysfunctional family. Lesley Kagen has created a coming-of-age story and a haunting tale about a brave and brokenhearted young girl whose courage and intelligence lead her to finally discover a dark and disturbing truth that will change her family and her life forever!

Here are some of my favorite lines that perfectly describe this wonderful book:

“During the course of all our lives, there comes a time when something or someone very dear to us will break beyond repair. Growing older teaches us we have no choice but to humbly accept that no matter how hard we try or how many tears we shed we’re powerless to glue those precious pieces back together again. But during the summer I went searching for our missing mother, I was just a girl. I hadn’t learned that lesson yet. No. It wasn’t until the damage was done that I truly understood the meaning of “Pride goeth before a fall”.”

Note: I would like to thank Tala Oszkay from Penguin Group for giving me the opportunity to read and review such a remarkable book!

So what about you? Do you like stories that are told from a child’s point of view? What books have you read that were told by a young protagonist like Shenny? I would like to read more books like Tomorrow River and I would be happy if you shared some reading suggestions with me.


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bermudaonion
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 13:15:03

    I love books told from a child’s perspective too. This one sounds fantastic! Thanks for your review.


  2. vivienne
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 13:28:06

    I love books told from a child’s perspective. I think that is why I loved I Capture the Castle and The Earth Hums in B Flat. They just appeal to my inner child.


  3. Jenny
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 14:23:16

    Of course I can’t think of one now that I’m on the spot, lol… I’m sure in a few days a whole bunch will come to me, haha!! This sounds good though! And I do like narrators that are children.. definitely interesting to look at things from a child’s perspective!


  4. Jackie (Farm Lane Books)
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 14:46:29

    I love books written from a child’s POV, but it is so hard to do convincingly. My favourites are What Was Lost, When I Was Five I Killed Myself and Ghosts of Eden. All are fairly unknown, but I urge you to give them a try!


  5. Sandy
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 17:00:57

    I agree with Jackie, I like the POV, but it is pretty easy to screw up if you are not totally in tune with kids. Sounds like this one is on the mark though, and it sounds really good. Nice review! (And I am also quite impressed with the number of books and reviews you are cranking through with a little one around!)


  6. iliana
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 17:40:01

    I’m so glad to hear you liked this one. I’ve got a copy of it waiting for me and I’m looking forward to it.

    Last year I read a good book told from a child’s POV, Tomato Girl by Jane Pupek (sp?)… That one seemed to make a lot of the blog rounds and got a lot of good feedback.


  7. Kathleen
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 19:13:17

    This one sounds really interesting. I’m guessing what the surprise is at the end but can’t wait to read it and find out if I am right. I do like books that are told from a child’s point of view. You are right about children taking in many things that we as adults miss. I am so impressed with all of the books you are reading with your new baby at home!


  8. Nymeth
    Apr 16, 2010 @ 21:18:23

    I love child narrators too, especially believed ones. I really liked the ones on The History of Love and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.


  9. Andreea
    Apr 17, 2010 @ 13:04:44

    Bermudaonion: You’re welcome. I hope you get to read this book!

    Vivienne: I loved The Earth Hums in B Flat but I didn’t like I Capture the Castle so much.

    Jenny: Well, should you remember any titles, let me know, no matter when. I am always interested in finding new books.

    Jackie: I remember reading some of your reviews of these books. I will definitely check them out. Thanks.

    Sandy: Yes, not every one is believable, but I really liked this one. As to the many books I read – I always try to read when Emma is asleep during the day. I just need that time for myself, otherwise I would go crazy:) She is better now, she sleeps through the night and the colic is gone. Now she is teething and she sometimes screams all day long, but that’s how it is with little babies. That shall pass too and hopefully, I will have more time for myself.

    Iliana: I am looking forward to reading your review of it. Thanks for mentioning ‘Tomato girl’. I will check it out.

    Kathleen: Oh, now I want to know what you are thinking:) I also thought that I knew what was going to happen, but I was definitely surprised by the book’s ending.

    Nymeth: I am off to have a look at these titles. Thanks for these suggestions!


  10. Lua
    Apr 17, 2010 @ 16:15:56

    Great review Andreea. I love books that are told from a child’s POV but it’s not always that easy to find a story that is believable… I think a child’s point of view is very trick, you can’t even miss one sentence or the spell is broken.

    The last book I read from a child POV was “the girl who could fly” and it was really good 🙂


  11. Alice Teh
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 02:17:01

    Hi Andreea, I echo the rest above. This one sure sounds like a book I’d read. Thanks for the review!


  12. Melody
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 02:48:30

    I love reading books from a child’s perspective, and this book sounds like one I might enjoy. Thanks for your review, Andreea!


  13. Cheryl
    May 27, 2010 @ 18:51:41

    I have read both of Leslie Kagen’s previous books and am in the middle of Tomorrow River now… She will hook you from the very first page and not let you go. Makes me remember just how it felt to be a kid, even though I have 5 grandchildren. If ever there is an author that can cut right thru the chase and get to your heart it is Leslie Kagen! She pulls the heart-strings and the belly laughs all at the same time. Like in Whistling in the Dark I am already looking forward to a sequel – please!!!


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