Crooked River: A Novel

Crooked River: A Novel

4.4 10
by Valerie Geary

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With the inventiveness and emotional power of Promise Not to Tell, The Death of Bees, and After Her, a powerful literary debut about family and friendship, good and evil, grief and forgiveness.

He is not evil. I am not good.

We are the same: broken and put back together again.

Still grieving the sudden death of their mother,


With the inventiveness and emotional power of Promise Not to Tell, The Death of Bees, and After Her, a powerful literary debut about family and friendship, good and evil, grief and forgiveness.

He is not evil. I am not good.

We are the same: broken and put back together again.

Still grieving the sudden death of their mother, Sam and her younger sister Ollie McAlister move from the comforts of Eugene to rural Oregon to live in a meadow in a teepee under the stars with Bear, their beekeeper father. But soon after they arrive, a young woman is found dead floating in Crooked River, and the police arrest their eccentric father for the murder.

Fifteen-year-old Sam knows that Bear is not a killer, even though the evidence points to his guilt. Unwilling to accept that her father could have hurt anyone, Sam embarks on a desperate hunt to save him and keep her damaged family together.

I see things no one else does.

I see them there and wish I didn’t. I want to tell and can’t.

Ollie, too, knows that Bear is innocent. The Shimmering have told her so. One followed her home from her mom’s funeral and refuses to leave. Now, another is following Sam. Both spirits warn Ollie: the real killer is out there, closer and more dangerous than either girl can imagine.

Told in Sam and Ollie’s vibrant voices, Crooked River is a family story, a coming of age story, a ghost story, and a psychological mystery that will touch reader’s hearts and keep them gripped until the final thrilling page.

Editorial Reviews

Pauls Toutonghi
“From its gruesome first image through its three hundred taut pages—Valerie Geary’s novel is a well-conceived, psychologically dense thrill-ride. At turns surprising and imaginative, this book is nearly impossible to put down.”
Lisa O'Donnell
“Crooked River is a an ambitious debut with a beautiful soul. Geary’s dark pen is lyrical and tender boasting clever dialogue and provocative prose.”
Wiley Cash
“CROOKED RIVER is a novel coursing with secrets and unasked questions....This novel is a literary thriller and a psychological study of the effects of loss, but most importantly, it’s a damn fine book.”
“The narrative skill displayed is impressive… readers will have a hard time putting this one down.”
“[A] swift and beguiling read… [Sam] is finely drawn, an update on Harper Lee’s Scout.”
Shelf Awareness
Crooked River is as much a coming-of-age novel as it is a well-paced mystery…Geary takes teenage Sam through a looking-glass and then pulls her back with an adult’s sense of loyalty and compassion—a journey equally worthwhile for all of us.”
Oklahoma City Oklahoman
“[Valerie Geary] captures her readers at once and doesn’t let them go.”
Kirkus Reviews
Two sisters growing up in rural Oregon find their world shaken when they stumble across a dead woman in the river that runs through their father's property. Ollie, who's 10, and 15-year-old Sam aren't just sisters—they're best friends, brought closer by their childhoods in a semifunctional family. After their father leaves, the girls' mom must raise them on her own. When their dad—nicknamed "Bear"—eventually resurfaces, he takes up living alone in the woods, where they see him infrequently. That is, until their mother dies of a heart attack and the sisters must move in with Bear and adapt to his crunchy nature-man lifestyle. His way of life is far from traditional, but the girls love it—he lives in a teepee in a meadow, with beekeeping as his primary source of income. The body the girls discover is at the center of the somewhat predictable mystery story that follows. The sisters, who alternately serve as narrators with very different voices (though Ollie is only 10, she reads as older), are increasingly consumed with solving the woman's bludgeoning death. Most townspeople don't seem surprised when Bear is fingered for the crime, though Sam and Ollie never believe their father is guilty. The girls spend the remainder of the novel trying to pinpoint the real criminal and save their dad from a jail sentence (which would leave them parentless). This is primarily a whodunit peppered with supernatural ghost talk (Ollie sees spirits she calls "The Shimmering," who follow her throughout the tale). Unfortunately, much of the paranormal subplot is tepid; Geary is a solid writer, though some of her phrasing can veer toward the overwrought, and some of the "country speak" she makes the characters engage in feels awkward. The book's core mystery is also disappointing—the identification of the dead woman's killer doesn't feel revelatory or surprising. A slightly jumbled debut that, while well-written, could have gone places it didn't quite manage to reach.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author

Valerie Geary is a full-time writer and a fair-weather gardener. Her stories have been published in The Rumpus and Day One. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family. Crooked River is her first book.

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Crooked River 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
RichardSutton More than 1 year ago
She had me as soon as I read the setting description. Not only was delivering the Eugene Register-Guard my first job, but years later, I had a friend named Bear when I lived on a commune south of Eugene, completer with a tipi in the meadow. What Ms. Geary's publisher didn't imply in the description was the fine balance in her writing between narrative and active voices resulting in flawless pacing. She also conveys a reassuring, grounding sense of setting which took me back and set me right down in the middle of Terrebonne. I literally would have read this in one sitting except for the need for meals and sleep. The story of two sisters living through a very difficult patch of loss and isolation teaches the importance of loyalty and love to bind a family together. The circumstances, while unusual were certainly recognizable to me. I especially appreciated the split Point of View, crafting alternate chapters from the two sisters' very different perspectives. The suspense builds especially toward the end, and the layer of paranormal awareness of the younger sister lays a compelling layer on everything. The very touching ending was very satisfying to this reader.I'm now a confirmed Valerie Geary fan, and will look forward to her next book. I can recommend this to readers who appreciate a close mystery in a family/rural setting. I think it would also be a good choice for older YA readers even though there is a tiny bit of appropriate obscenity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great new fiction, love when it all comes together!
Anonymous 12 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read I really enjoyed it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Constant, continous happenings. Five stars and I can count how many books I have given
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jonilynn1978 More than 1 year ago
For the most part this is a decent book, easy read with good character development however, it's a little slow in the beginning. It doesn't really get good until the middle to the end. There are parts that are suspensful and the ending isn't terrible however, the ghosts, totally unnecessary in this entire book which was one of the reasons I only gave it 3 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only just started reading, the book will grab you instantly. I am sure it will become a can't put it down read. Crooked River take me away.