“Time is a river, I’ve learned. Always moving forward.”
Go read any review of Into this River I Drown and I guarantee you’re going to hear about utter devastation. Sobbing and wailing. Wookie crying. People will warn you to ‘bring tissues, prepare your heart, but be ready to fall in love with this story’. It frightened me! I don’t dislike crying, but I’ll admit to putting off a book everyone says will crush me. That’s exactly what I did with Into this River I Drown. Even though I love TJ Klune’s writing with a passion, I was still too nervous to inflict that pain upon myself.
Then the other night, after DNFing another book, I was flipping through my Kindle and my eyes were drawn to this title. Suddenly I felt strong. I felt sure that just because everyone else was wrecked didn’t mean I’d feel the same way. Hell, maybe I wouldn’t even like Into this River I Drown. So, I opened it up and started reading, confident in my heart of stone. (Which is a joke, because I get teary from television commercials!) From there I only gained in confidence the more I read. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I just didn’t think anything was happening to warrant violent sobbing.
At about 70% the story took a turn I didn’t anticipate and I. Lost. It. Seriously. I wish I’d had my daughter take a picture of my face. I was swollen, red, tears streaming, gulping, and blowing my nose. My breath was coming out in crying gasps. Heaving sobs. I was definitely in need of tissues.
I remained crying, in varying degrees of heaviness, until I’d finished. With my face dry and stiff from all those salty tears, I started thinking about why Into this River I Drown was able to yank all that emotion out of me. I came to the conclusion that it’s because TJ Klune is so freaking gifted! He knows how to realistically write grief. Grief was what made me cry. I felt such pain, and it was because I was connected to Benji’s pain. It was special, even if it did make me splotchy and drippy. You can’t deny the beauty of a book that evokes that much feeling. It was stunning.
As far as the actual plot goes, I don’t really want to get into it. Like many of TJ’s books, the story is mysterious, and for me to talk too much would ruin it. I’ll just mention the connections. For a book like this to work the connections have to be strong. Big Eddie and Benji’s connection is the first, and main, thread of the story. There are a lot of flashbacks, since that’s the only way you’re going to understand Benji’s deep love for his father. We’re not just told, we’re shown. Rest assured, the flashbacks are built into the book gracefully, almost dancing back and forth with the present day. Then, there’s the connection between Benji and his mom, which in its own way is almost as integral to the story as Big Eddie. There’s the connections to Benji’s aunts. And finally, and equally as precious, is the relationship between Benji and Cal. It’s all a big spiderweb that hooks you like a bug and then swallows you whole.
There were flaws. There were times it felt like the story was crawling between scenes, so I think maybe some tighter editing would have helped. There was also one character I struggled with. Truthfully, neither of those complaints matter. They won’t be what I remember. They don’t stop me from wanting to rush out and buy Into this River I Drown in print. They definitely won’t hinder my rereading this next year.
I love TJ Klune.