Monday, June 21, 2004
The River Between Us
Peck, Richard. 2003. THE RIVER BETWEEN US. New York: Dial Books. ISBN 0803727356 [Suggested Grade Levels 6 and up]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
“Imagine a time when there were still people around who’d seen U.S. Grant with their own eyes and men who had voted for Lincoln.” In a journey that will change his life forever, fifteen-year-old Howard Leland Hutchings visits his father’s family in Grand Tower, Illinois in 1916 and meets the four people who raised his father. Looking at the peeling wallpaper in the old family home, the boy wonders “how many layers you’d have to scrape away until you came to the time when these old people were young. If they ever were.”
In this rich and masterfully told Civil War tale, Peck creates a story that never stops surprising the reader. With multiple plot twists and characters that mesmerize, the greatest strength of the novel is Peck’s ability to create characters that appear larger than life, yet are quite believable. The narration of the story is mostly handled by Grandma Tilly, who relates the events of 1861 when families and the townspeople are divided both geographically and by party lines. When a steamboat from New Orleans brings two Southern strangers into town (who end up invited to stay with Tilly’s family), their lives are forever changed. Whether learning about a family member’s visions, or the true parentage of Howard’s father, Peck crafts a story which is both surprising and engaging.
Teens could interview family members and construct a narrative story which details how a historical event changed their family. They should attempt to interview as many family members as possible to be able to understand the importance of multiple perspectives. After compiling the interviews, their story could allow for multiple narrators to tell the family tale.
Other stories about the American Civil War:
Hansen, Joyce. WHICH WAY FREEDOM?. ISBN 0380714086
Murphy, Jim. THE BOY’S WAR: CONFEDERATE AND UNION SOLDIERS TALK ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR. ISBN 0899198937
Rinaldi, Ann. NUMBERING ALL THE BONES. ISBN 0786805331
Other historical novels by Peck:
A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO. ISBN 0803722907
A YEAR DOWN YONDER. ISBN 0803725183
FAIR WEATHER. ISBN 0803725167
By Rose Brock