26 July 2016
Riverine: A Memoir From Anywhere but Here by Angela Palm
Angela Palm grew up in a place not marked on the map, her house set on the banks of a river that had been straightened to make way for farmland. Every year, the Kankakee River in rural Indiana flooded and returned to its old course while the residents sandbagged their homes against the rising water. From her bedroom window, Palm watched the neighbor boy and loved him in secret, imagining a life with him even as she longed for a future that held more than a job at the neighborhood bar. For Palm, caught in this landscape of flood and drought, escape was a continually receding hope.
Though she did escape, as an adult Palm finds herself drawn back, like the river, to her origins. But this means more than just recalling vibrant, complicated memories of the place that shaped her, or trying to understand the family that raised her. It means visiting the prison where the boy that she loved is serving a life sentence for a brutal murder. It means trying to chart, through the mesmerizing, interconnected essays of Riverine, what happens when a single event forces the path of her life off course.
Riverine is defined as something either formed by a river or situated on the banks of a river. In Angela Palm's memoir Riverine, she begins her story in the house her family lived in as a child, set upon an artificially created bank of the Kankakee River in rural Indiana. Every seasonal flood shows that the river constantly returns to its former banks. Even though her family eventually moves away from that river bank, Palm continually returns to the subject of that house, that river bank. Although she has moved away, finished school, and married, she is struck by the ways that early environment shaped herself as opposed to how it shaped her friend, and first love, Corey.
This is a beautiful and evocative memoir. Her exploration of the prison system that Corey inhabits was brief but very well-researched and written. The strength of the writing fades a bit in the last 50 pages but overall it is a very vivid and compelling work.
Dear FTC: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.