Sunday, April 1, 2012

Reads Like a Prayer, Sings Like a Hymn: The Voice of the River by Melanie Rae Thon

Here at the blog, I've already talked about the impact of Melanie Rae Thon's fiction has on the unsuspecting reader.  Her stories are grounded in reality but pull you out of your body with her poem-dense prose.  In an earlier review of her short story collection In This Light, I wrote: "Put simply, Thon's stories exist on a different plane than most fiction you'll read.  The language is breath and smoke, keenly tuned to matters of redemption and healing."  You don't read Thon's fiction so much as you experience it.  The Billings Gazette has just posted my review of her novel, The Voice of the River, released last Fall from Fiction Collective 2.  Here's how the review starts:
      Melanie Rae Thon’s newest novel, The Voice of the River, begins with a heart-in-throat scene which could have been clipped from the front page of any Montana newspaper: a squirrel runs across a river’s thin ice, a joyful dog flies after it, a boy cries “No!”, and there is the sound of ice like glass shattering.
      “Kai sees the dog swept down and under, too impossible to believe, and he doesn’t believe, not exactly — doesn’t stop to think — only loves and leaps and follows, slides out onto the ice and crashes through it.”
      This is Kai Dionne, “seventeen years old, almost a man, six feet tall, but only 146 pounds, a child willing to die to save an animal.” When Kai breaks through the soft springtime ice on the river, he sets in motion a search party that will involve dozens of characters from his unnamed northwest Montana town. Friends, relatives and strangers are drawn to the river as the novel unfolds across a single day. It is a search-and-rescue at the edge of the human spirit.
      “Hundreds here, even now, silent pilgrims, loving the lost boy, loving one another — believers moving up and down the shore on both sides, still hoping — footsteps like prayers laid one inside the other — hundreds whispering to God as if he might come down as wind or light and change this — as if he might appear disguised: the air they breathe, the space between them.”
      That passage is a good example of Thon’s style, which looks light as condensed breath but weighs heavy with meaning. Each word is chosen carefully, placed in the sentence only after solemn deliberation, geared toward the greatest, deepest effect. The result is a novel that reads like a prayer and sings like a hymn.
Click here to read the rest of the review

1 comment:

  1. This is the kind of stuff that makes me think, "I want to write like this". Thanks for sharing!