The River King [NOOK Book]


From the best-selling author of The DovekeepersThe River King confirms Alice Hoffman as "one of our quirkiest and most interesting novelists" (Jane Smiley, USA Today).
People tend to stay in their place in the town of Haddan. The students at the prestigious prep school don't mix with locals; even within the school, hierarchy rules, as freshman and faculty members find out where they fit in and what is expected of them. But when a body is found in the river ...
See more details below
The River King

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$12.99 price

All Available Formats & Editions


From the best-selling author of The DovekeepersThe River King confirms Alice Hoffman as "one of our quirkiest and most interesting novelists" (Jane Smiley, USA Today).
People tend to stay in their place in the town of Haddan. The students at the prestigious prep school don't mix with locals; even within the school, hierarchy rules, as freshman and faculty members find out where they fit in and what is expected of them. But when a body is found in the river behind the school, a local policeman will walk into this enclosed world and upset it entirely. A story of surface appearances and the truths submerged below. 
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A River Runs Through It

Like Ishmael, the narrator of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, the omniscient teller of Alice Hoffman's The River King has a profound affinity for water. Unlike Ishmael, whose story ends tragically, this narrator, and we, her readers, find in the water's depths the perfect metaphor for the rushing currents of life. For this reason, water is everywhere in Hoffman's latest foray into North American magic realism. There are countless floods and storms, overcoat pockets gushing with river water, a swimming pool as haunted as any house-on-the-hill, a newborn child set in the rushes of the river like the baby Moses.

The setting is Hadden, Massachusetts, which is also the name of the town's elite boarding school, and the river that runs through them both. Here we encounter a large and compelling cast of characters, both "townies" and Hadden School faculty and students, all of them caught up in a mystery that revolves around a death that seems to be a suicide. In what often feels like literary sleight-of-hand, Hoffman brings her players on stage to play their scenes with such grace that you almost forget that you haven't known them for years.

The story is stitched together by the threads of two loves. One thread connects local cop Abel Grey, a tall, handsome loner and a self-confessed emotional recluse, to photography teacher Betsy Chase, the woman who unwittingly brings him out of hiding. The other thread connects two students, Carlin Leander, a fine looking, dirt-poor, independent-thinker-of-a-girl attending Hadden on a swimming scholarship, and Gus Pierce, a hopelessly homely renegade of a boy, half Holden Caulfield and half Borstal Boy. Of equal importance to the novel are the ghosts who haunt this story, including Annie Howe, the long-suffering wife of a former headmaster at the school, and Abel's kid brother, whose death at 17 was also suspicious. But most importantly, there is the "recently deceased," who shows up in Betsy Chase's photographs as a shimmering aura.

Hoffman's prose fairly overflows these pages with lush images of animal and plant life and the weather, which is predictably wet: "A cold rain began to fall at a steady pace, hour after hour, until its rhythm was all anyone could hear. This was no ordinary rain, for the rainfall was black, a rain of algae." Or, in the occasional lull between showers: "Indian summer came to Hadden in the middle of the night when no one was watching, when people were safely asleep in their beds. Before dawn, mist rose in the meadows as the soft, languid air drifted over fields and riverbanks." In fact many chapters begin with such passages, affirming again and again that human life, even in these modern times, exists within and is ever affected by the natural world. And maybe part of what makes Hoffman's use of the hyperbole of magical realism so meaningful is that it sometimes takes a bigger-than-life natural world to wake us up to its very real wonders.

Abel, Betsy, Carlin, and Gus face a number of whale-size moral dilemmas in The River King, moral concerns that are at once contemporary and timeless. But finally it is the river itself -- or perhaps in the very turn of phrase Hoffman means us to make, King River -- who stands sentinel over all the human strivings and failures enacted along its banks and in its tumbling stream. It is in this river that, as Ishmael says, "We see ourselves...the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all."

--Susan Thames

Susan Thames is the author of a book of short stories, As Much As I Know. Her novel I'll Be Home Late Tonight was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

About the Author

Alice Hoffman is the New York Times bestselling author of Turtle Moon, At Risk, Property Of, Angel Landing, Practical Magic, Second Nature, White Horses, and Here on Earth. She lives outside Boston.

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
In Hoffman's latest, it's the preppies against the townies of small town Massachusetts -- when an inexplicable death occurs -- and their two worlds collide.
People Magazine
In her 13th novel, Hoffman once again demonstrated her compassion for the world's walking wounded along with a penchant for the supernatural.
Entertainment Weekly
All in all, The River King is a nicely arranged bouquet by a disciplined craftsman deft at getting her occasionally secondhand rose blossoms into the marketplace.
Seattle Times
Hoffman is best at creating otherworldly dimension that surrounds the atmosphere of the campus.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Reading her book is like having a dream that haunts even after we awaken.
Seattle Weekly
...asserts that the impossible is possible, while also demonstrating the skills of a formidable literary writer.
New York Times Book Review
Full of wonderfully and satisfyingly odd twists and turns.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Rewarding...a novel not to be missed.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Graceful, beguiling, and quirky...Reading her book is like having a dream that haunts even after we awaken.
Denver Rocky Mountain News
A ripping yarn and suspenseful ghost tale.
Boston Herald
Irish Times
A rich, layered story.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in and around an exclusive private school in fictional Haddan, Mass., bestselling author Hoffman's (Practical Magic; Here on Earth) latest novel flows as swiftly and limpidly as the Haddan River, the town's mystical waterway. As one expects in a Hoffman novel, strange things have always happened in Haddan--a combination of Mother Nature gone awry and human nature following suit. In 1858, the year the school was completed, a devastating flood almost destroyed it and the town. The esteemed headmaster, Dr. Howe, married a pretty local girl who hung herself from the rafters "one mild evening in March." Local superstitions prove true more often than not, and twice in recent history a black, algae-laden rain has covered people and buildings with a dark sludge. An uneasy peace has always existed between the locals and the Haddan School, based on the latter's financial benefit to the community and the local authorities' willingness to look the other way when necessary to maintain the school's reputation. But when student August Pierce is found drowned in the Haddan River, detective Abel Grey is flooded with memories of his own teenage brother's suicide, and refuses to look away. Supporting characters are richly textured: new photography instructor Betsy Chase feels unsafe in Haddan, yet somehow finds herself engaged to a mysterious young history professor Eric Herman; Carlin Leander, a poor, strikingly beautiful young girl, comes to Haddan to recreate herself and escape her neglectful mother, and becomes misfit August's only friend while dating the most popular boy on campus; Helen Davis, chair of the history department, is haunted by a long-ago affair she had with Dr. Howe, which she believes had something to do with his young wife's suicide. As ever, Hoffman mixes myth, magic and reality, addressing issues of town and gown, enchanting her readers with a many-layered morality tale and proving herself once again an inventive author with a distinctive touch. Literary Guild main selection, Doubleday Book Club featured alternate; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Norway, Denmark; major ad/promo; 14-city author tour. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
To quote from the review of the audiobook in KLIATT, March 2001: Hoffman's novels always manage to legitimize the strange. The setting here is an old boarding school in Massachusetts, where a number of misfits come together, joined by a tragedy. August Pierce, a troubled boy, is found drowned in the Haddon River. Abel Gray, a police officer and member of an old Haddon family, haunted by his brother's suicide, cannot accept the explanation of Pierce's death. Carlin Leander, a 15-year-old girl, beautiful but lost, maintains her loyalty to Pierce even after his death and, in doing so, helps Abel Gray find his true love. Although Gus Pierce dies early on in the novel, his spirit lives on in the form of unexplained phenomena. By the end of the story, it becomes clear that those who appear to not fit in with the norm are the only ones with real substance. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Berkley, 344p., $14.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Nola Theiss; Sanibel, FL , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Library Journal
Weaving history, geography, and the impact of weather upon the town of Haddan, MA, Hoffman creates an often-grotesque world where love struggles to grow beside cruelty and secrets. Carlin Leander and Gus Pierce are freshmen boarding at Haddan School, which has an uneasy relationship both past and present with the townspeople. The novel throbs with often-dense images of water in all its forms of sustenance and destruction as metaphor and setting. The usual tricks and strengths of Hoffman are here in the use of magic and mystery within layers of description that build an atmosphere as important as any characterization. Laural Merlington's reading is clear, sensitive, and well paced in a story that is haunting in its beauty and cruelty. Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Haddan School is an elite prep school located in a small town in Massachusetts. One of its dorms is haunted by the ghost of Annie Howe, who killed herself after discovering that her husband, a past headmaster, was an adulterer. Many years pass before two new students, Carlin Leander and August Pierce, both socially and intellectually independent from the school's cliques, meet and fall in love. The other students plot revenge: August is too much the individual and Carlin too good for him. Pierce is murdered and it takes all of police officer Abel Gray's talent and persistence to bring justice. He is helped by the photography teacher, Betsy Chase, and he falls in love with her. Their courtship becomes another part of this complicated plot. Hoffman's characters have strongly defined personali-ties, and their relationships are complex, built upon multiple events from each individual's past and present. August is a gangly, thin young man attempting to find his true self and endure the taunts of others. His spirit becomes so strong that even as a ghost he shows up in Betsy's photographs. Hoffman's writing evokes gloriously poetic images and stirs emotional responses as she wields her style of magical realism, and the story captures the magic in living and the power of love. Young adults familiar with Hoffman's other books will enjoy this as will fans of Gabriel Garc'a M rquez and Laura Esquivel's work.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Charles DeLint
As is usual with a new Hoffman book, The River King jumped the queue and was started immediately. And also, as usual, I wasn't disappointed for a moment.
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Robert Allen Papinchak
It takes a natural disaster to wash away the residue of doom that suffuses Hoffman's highly suspenseful novel.
USA Today
Amanda Fortini
Storytelling is Hoffman's strength. . . . Full of wonderfully and satisfyingly odd twists and turns…
The New York Times Book Review
Ron Charles
Hoffman's prose is simultaneously fantastical and satiric, weaving motifs of fairy tales with biting criticism of this snobby school culture.
The Christian Science Monitor
Kirkus Reviews
Hoffman, a gifted writer who's been treading water lately (Local Girls, 1997, etc.), is in much better form with this compelling portrait of class tensions and personal longings in the small-town Massachusetts. Since 1858, the Haddan School has educated the children of the wealthy, who barely notice the village residents. More than 50 years after local girl Annie Howe, unhappily married to the school's womanizing headmaster, hung herself from the rafters of the girls' dormitory, town-gown fraternizing still seems a bad idea. Three new arrivals, though, quickly upset the smug status quo. Carlin Leander, transported from working-class Florida on a swimming scholarship, catches the fancy of handsome Harry McKenna, nasty top dog among the popular students. Betsy Chase, hired as photography instructor because she's engaged to ambitious history teacher Eric Herman, finds herself attracted to Abe Grey, a town cop with a checkered past. And Gus Pierce, a brilliant but troubled new student, defies the vicious hazing (led by Harry) to which the faculty turns a blind eye. When Gus's body is discovered in the river, everyone wants to sweep the matter under the rug. But Abe needs to honor the legacy of his upright grandfather, purge his bitter knowledge of the town's current corruption, and redeem the sorrow of his brother's long-ago suicide, as well as Annie Howe's. He persists, and some measure of justice is meted out to the guilty, though there's plenty of suffering for the innocent as well. Hoffman balances a biting depiction of Haddan's snobbery and moral failures with her usual breathtakingly beautiful evocations of the natural world (laid on a littlethickhere). Her appealing protagonists find happiness, and a series of supernatural events suggest the existence of a higher order that will not allow evil to prevail . . . entirely. A host of complex, well-drawn characters and a strong story make up for a slight tendency to overdo the magic realism in a novel sure to please Hoffman's many fans. Literary Guild main selection/Doubleday Book Club featured alternate selection; author tour
From the Publisher
“Graceful, beguiling, and quirky.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Rewarding…a novel not to be missed.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Set in and around an exclusive private school in fictional Haddan, Mass., bestselling author Hoffman’s latest novel flows as swiftly and limpidly as the Haddan River, the town’s mystical waterway…As ever, Hoffman mixes myth, magic and reality, addressing issues of town and gown, enchanting her readers with a many-layered morality tale and proving herself once again an inventive author with a distinctive touch.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Suspenseful and engrossing.”—Denver Rocky Mountain News

“It can be hard to find an example of good old-fashioned storytelling these days, but storytelling, refreshingly, is Alice Hoffman’s strength…The River King is full of wonderfully and satisfyingly odd twists and turns.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Reading her book is like having a dream that haunts even after we awaken.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440674242
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2001
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 326,751
  • File size: 436 KB

Meet the Author

Alice  Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is the bestselling author of acclaimed novels, including Here on Earth (an Oprah Book Club selection), Practical Magic (a Hollywood film), The River King, Blue Diary, Turtle Moon and most recently Skylight Confessions. Blackbird House was shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. She divides her time between Boston and New York City.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 16, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Haddan School was built in 1858 on the sloping banks of the Haddan River, a muddy and precarious location that had proven disastrous from the start. That very first year, when the whole town smelled of cedar shavings, there was a storm of enormous proportions, with winds so strong that dozens of fish were drawn up from the reedy shallows, then lifted above the village in a shining cloud of scales. Torrents of water fell from the sky, and by morning the river had overflowed, leaving the school's freshly painted white clapboard buildings adrift in a murky sea of duckweed and algae.
For weeks, students were ferried to classes in rowboats; catfish swam through flooded perennial gardens, observing the disaster with cool, glassy eyes. Every evening, at twilight, the school cook balanced on a second-story window ledge, then cast out his rod to catch dozens of silver trout, a species found only in the currents of the Haddan River, a sweet, fleshy variety that was especially delectable when fried with shallots and oil. After the flood subsided, two inches of thick, black silt covered the carpets in the dormitories; at the headmaster's house, mosquitoes began to hatch in sinks and commodes. The delightful watery vistas of the site, a landscape abundant with willows and water lotus, had seduced the foolish trustees into building much too close to the river, an architectural mistake that has never been rectified. To this day, frogs can be found in the plumbing; linens and clothes stored in closets have a distinctly weedy odor, as if each article had been washed in river water and never thoroughly dried.
After the flood, houses in town had to be refloored and re-roofed; public buildings were torn down, then refashioned from cellar to ceiling. Whole chimneys floated down Main Street, with some of them still issuing forth smoke. Main Street itself had become a river, with waters more than six feet deep. Iron fences were loosened and ripped from the earth, leaving metal posts in the shape of arrows adrift. Horses drowned; mules floated for miles and when rescued, refused to eat anything but wild celery and duckweed. Poison sumac was uprooted and deposited in vegetable bins, only to be mistakenly cooked along with the carrots and cabbages, a recipe that led to several untimely deaths. Bobcats showed up on back porches, mewing and desperate for milk; several were found beside babies in their cradles, sucking from bottles and purring as though they were house cats let in through front doors.
At that time, the rich fields circling the town of Haddan were owned by prosperous farmers who cultivated asparagus and onions and a peculiar type of yellow cabbage known for its large size and delicate fragrance. These farmers put aside their plows and watched as boys arrived from every corner of the Commonwealth and beyond to take up residence at the school, but even the wealthiest among them were unable to afford tuition for their own sons. Local boys had to make do with the dusty stacks at the library on Main Street and whatever fundamentals they might learn in their very own parlors and fields. To this day, people in Haddan retain a rustic knowledge of which they are proud. Even the children can foretell the weather; they can point to and name every constellation in the sky.
A dozen years after the Haddan School was built, a public high school was erected in the neighboring town of Hamilton, which meant a five-mile trek to classes on days when the snow was knee-deep and the weather so cold even the badgers kept to their dens. Each time a Haddan boy walked through a storm to the public school his animosity toward the Haddan School grew, a small bump on the skin of ill will ready to rupture at the slightest contact. In this way a hard bitterness was forged, and the spiteful sentiment increased every year, until there might as well have been a fence dividing those who came from the school and the residents of the village. Before long, anyone who dared to cross that line was judged to be either a martyr or a fool.
There was a time when it seemed possible for the separate worlds to be united, when Dr. George Howe, the esteemed headmaster, considered to be the finest in the Haddan School history, decided to marry Annie Jordan, the most beautiful girl in the village. Annie's father was a well-respected man who owned a parcel of farmland out where Route 17 now runs into the interstate, and he approved of the marriage, but soon after the wedding it became apparent that Haddan would remain divided. Dr. Howe was jealous and vindictive; he turned local people away from his door. Even Annie's family was quickly dispatched. Her father and brothers, good, simple men with mud on their boots, were struck mute the few times they came to call, as if the bone china and leather-bound books had robbed them of their tongues. Before long people in town came to resent Annie, as if she'd somehow betrayed them. If she thought she was so high and mighty, in that fine house by the river, then the girls she grew up with felt they had reason to retaliate, and on the streets they passed her by without a word. Even her own dog, a lazy hound named Sugar, ran away yelping on those rare occasions when Annie came to visit her father's farm.
It quickly became clear that the marriage had been a horrid mistake; anyone more worldly than Annie would have known this from the start. At his very own wedding, Dr. Howe had forgotten his hat, always the sign of a man who's bound to stray. He was the sort of person who wished to own his wife, without belonging to her in return. There were days when he spoke barely a sentence in his own home, and nights when he didn't come in until dawn. It was loneliness that led Annie to begin her work in the gardens at Haddan, which until her arrival were neglected, ruined patches filled with ivy and nightshade, dark vines that choked out any wildflowers that might have grown in the thin soil. As it turned out, Annie's loneliness was the school's good fortune, for it was she who designed the brick walkways that form an hourglass and who, with the help of six strong boys, saw to the planting of the weeping beeches beneath whose branches many girls still receive their first kiss. Annie brought the original pair of swans to reside at the bend in the river behind the headmaster's house, ill-tempered, wretched specimens rescued from a farmer in Hamilton whose wife plucked their bloody feathers for soft, plump quilts. Each evening, before supper, when the light above the river washed the air with a green haze, Annie went out with an apronful of old bread. She held the firm belief that scattering bread crumbs brought happiness, a condition she herself had not known since her wedding day.
There are those who vow that swans are unlucky, and fishermen in particular despise them, but Annie loved her pets; she could call them to her with a single cry. At the sound of her sweet voice the birds lined up as politely as gentlemen; they ate from her hands without ever once drawing blood, favoring crusts of rye bread and whole-wheat crackers. As a special treat, Annie often brought whole pies, leftovers from the dining room. In a wicker basket, she piled up apple cobbler and wild raspberry tart, which the swans gobbled down nearly whole, so that their beaks were stained crimson and their bellies took on the shapes of medicine balls.
Even those who were certain Dr. Howe had made a serious error in judgment in choosing his bride had to admire Annie's gardens. In no time the perennial borders were thick with rosy-pink foxglove and cream-colored lilies, each of which hung like a pendant, collecting dew on its satiny petals. But it was with her roses that Annie had the best luck of all, and among the more jealous members of the Haddan garden club, founded that very year in an attempt to beautify the town, there was speculation that such good fortune was unnatural. Some people went so far as to suggest that Annie Howe sprinkled the pulverized bones of cats around the roots of her ramblers, or perhaps it was her own blood she cast about the shrubs. How else could her garden bloom in February, when all other yards were nothing more than stonewort and bare dirt? Massachusetts was known for a short growing season and its early killing frosts. Nowhere could a gardener find more unpredictable weather, be it droughts or floods or infestations of beetles, which had been known to devour entire neighborhoods full of greenery. None of these plagues ever affected Annie Howe. Under her care, even the most delicate hybrids lasted past the first frost so that in November there were still roses blooming at Haddan, although by then, the edge of each petal was often encased in a layer of ice.
Much of Annie Howe's handiwork was destroyed the year she died, yet a few samples of the hardiest varieties remain. A visitor to campus can find sweet, aromatic Prosperity, as well as Climbing Ophelia and those delicious Egyptian Roses, which give off the scent of cloves on rainy days, ensuring that a gardener's hands will smell sweet for hours after pruning the canes. Among all of these roses, Mrs. Howe's prized white Polars were surely her finest. Cascades of white flowers lay dormant for a decade, to bloom and envelop the metal trellis beside the girls' dormitory only once every ten years, as if all that time was needed to restore the roses their strength. Each September, when the new students arrived, Annie Howe's roses had an odd effect on certain girls, the sensitive ones who had never been away from home before and were easily influenced. When such girls walked past the brittle canes in the gardens behind St. Anne's, they felt something cold at the base of their spines, a bad case of pins and needles, as though someone were issuing a warning: Be careful who you choose to love and who loves you in return.
Most newcomers are apprised of Annie's fate as soon as they come to Haddan. Before suitcases are unpacked and classes are chosen, they know that although the huge wedding cake of a house that serves as the girls' dormitory is officially called Hastings House-in honor of some fellow, long forgotten, whose dull-witted daughter's admission opened the door for female students on the strength of a huge donation-the dormitory is never referred to by that name. Among students, the house is called St. Anne's, in honor of Annie Howe, who hanged herself from the rafters one mild evening in March, only hours before wild iris began to appear in the woods. There will always be girls who refuse to go up to the attic at St. Anne's after hearing this story, and others, whether in search of spiritual renewal or quick thrills, who are bound to ask if they can take up residence in the room where Annie ended her life. On days when rosewater preserves are served at breakfast, with Annie's recipe carefully followed by the kitchen staff, even the most fearless girls can become light-headed; after spooning this concoction onto their toast they need to sit with their heads between their knees and breathe deeply until their metabolisms grow steady again.
At the start of the term, when members of the faculty return to school, they are reminded not to grade on a curve and not to repeat Annie's story. It is exactly such nonsense that gives rise to inflated grade averages and nervous breakdowns, neither of which are approved of by the Haddan School. Nevertheless, the story always slips out, and there's nothing the administration can do to stop it. The particulars of Annie's life are simply common knowledge among the students, as much an established part of Haddan life as the route of the warblers who always begin their migration at this time of year, lighting on shrubbery and treetops, calling to one another across the open sky.
Often, the weather is unseasonably warm at the start of the term, one last triumph of summer come to call. Roses bloom more abundantly, crickets chirp wildly, flies doze on windowsills, drowsy with sunlight and heat. Even the most serious-minded educators are known to fall asleep when Dr. Jones gives his welcoming speech. This year, many in attendance drifted off in the overheated library during this oration and several teachers secretly wished that the students would never arrive. Outside, the September air was enticingly fragrant, yellow with pollen and rich, lemony sunlight. Along the river, near the canoe shed, weeping willows rustled and dropped catkins on the muddy ground. The clear sound of slow-moving water could be heard even here in the library, perhaps because the building itself had been fashioned out of river rock, gray slabs flecked with mica that had been hauled from the banks by local boys hired for a dollar a day, laborers whose hands bled from their efforts and who cursed the Haddan School forever after, even in their sleep.
As usual, people were far more curious about those who'd been recently hired than those old, reliable colleagues they already knew. In every small community, the unknown is always most intriguing, and Haddan was no exception to this rule. Most people had been to dinner with Bob Thomas, the massive dean of students, and his pretty wife, Meg, more times than they could count; they had sat at the bar at the Haddan Inn with Duck Johnson, who coached crew and soccer and always became tearful after his third beer. The on-again, off-again romance between Lynn Vining, who taught painting, and Jack Short, the married chemistry teacher, had already been discussed and dissected. Their relationship was completely predictable, as were many of the love affairs begun at Haddan-fumbling in the teachers' lounge, furtive embraces in idling cars, kisses exchanged in the library, breakups at the end of the term. Feuds were far more interesting, as in the case of Eric Herman-ancient history-and Helen Davis-American history and chair of the department, a woman who'd been teaching at Haddan for more than fifty years and was said to grow meaner with each passing day, as if she were a pitcher of milk set out to curdle in the noonday sun.
Despite the heat and Dr. Jones's dull lecture, the same speech he trotted out every year, despite the droning of bees beyond the open windows, where a hedge of twiggy China roses still grew, people took notice of the new photography instructor, Betsy Chase. It was possible to tell at a glance that Betsy would be the subject of even more gossip than any ongoing feud. It wasn't only Betsy's fevered expression that drew stares, or her high cheekbones and dark, unpredictable hair. People couldn't quite believe how inappropriate her attire was. There she was, a good-looking woman who apparently had no common sense, wearing old black slacks and a faded black T-shirt, the sort of grungy outfit barely tolerated on Haddan students, let alone on members of the faculty. On her feet were plastic flip-flops of the dime-store variety, cheap little items that announced every step with a slap. She actually had a wad of gum in her mouth, and soon enough blew a bubble when she thought no one was looking; even those in the last row of the library could hear the sugary pop. Dennis Hardy, geometry, who sat directly behind her, told people afterward that Betsy gave off the scent of vanilla, a tincture she used to dispel the odor of darkroom chemicals from her skin, a concoction so reminiscent of baked goods that people who met her often had an urge for oatmeal cookies or angel food cake.
It had been only eight months since Betsy had been hired to take the yearbook photos. She had disliked the school at first sight, and had written it off as too prissy, too picture perfect. When Eric Herman asked her out she'd been surprised by the offer, and wary as well. She'd already had more than her share of botched relationships, yet she'd agreed to have dinner with Eric, ever hopeful despite the statistics that promised her an abject and lonely old age. Eric was so much sturdier than the men she was used to, all those brooders and artists who couldn't be depended upon to show up at the door on time let alone have the foresight to plan a retirement fund. Before Betsy knew what had happened she was accepting an offer of marriage and applying for a job in the art department. The Willow Room at the Haddan Inn was already reserved for their reception in June, and Bob Thomas, the dean of students, had guaranteed them one of the coveted faculty cottages as soon as they were wed. Until that time, Betsy would be a houseparent at St. Anne's and Eric would continue on as senior proctor at Chalk House, a boys' dormitory set so close to the river that the dreadful Haddan swans often nested on the back porch, nipping at passersby's pant legs until chased away with a broom.
For the past month, Betsy had been simultaneously planning both her classes at Haddan and her wedding. Perfectly rational activities, and yet she often felt certain she had blundered into an alternate universe, one to which she clearly did not belong. Today, for instance, the other women present in the auditorium were all in dresses, the men in summer suits and ties, and there was Betsy in her T-shirt and slacks, making what was sure to be the first of an endless series of social miscalculations. She had bad judgment, there was no way around it; from childhood on, she had jumped into things headfirst, without looking to see if there was a net to break her fall. Of course, no one had bothered to inform her that Dr. Jones's addresses were such formal events; everyone said he was ancient and ailing and that Bob Thomas was the real man in charge. Hoping to erase her fashion blunder, Betsy now searched through her backpack for some lipstick and a pair of earrings, for all the good they would do.
Taking up residence in a small town had indeed left Betsy disoriented. She was used to city living, to potholes and purse snatchers, parking tickets and double locks. Whether it be morning, noon, or night, she simply couldn't get her bearings here in Haddan. She'd set out for the pharmacy on Main Street or to Selena's Sandwich Shoppe on the corner of Pine and arrive at the town cemetery in the field behind town hall. She'd start for the market, in search of a loaf of bread or some muffins, only to find that she'd strayed onto the twisting back roads leading to Sixth Commandment Pond, a deep pool at a bend in the river where horsetails and wild celery grew. Once she'd wandered off, it would often be hours before she managed to find her way back to St. Anne's. People in town had already become accustomed to a pretty, dark woman wandering about, asking for directions from schoolchildren and crossing guards, and yet still managing to take one wrong turn after another.
Although Betsy Chase was confused, the town of Haddan hadn't changed much in the last fifty years. The village itself was three blocks long, and, for some residents, contained the whole world. Along with Selena's Sandwich Shoppe, which served breakfast all day, there was a pharmacy at whose soda fountain the best raspberry lime rickeys in the Commonwealth could be had, as well as a hardware store that offered everything from nails to velveteen. One could also find a shoe store, the 5&10 Cent Bank, and the Lucky Day Florist, known for its scented garlands and wreaths. There was St. Agatha's, with its granite facade, and the public library, with its stained-glass windows, the first to be built in the county. Town hall, which had burned down twice, had finally been rebuilt with mortar and stone, and was said to be indestructible, although the statue of the eagle out front was tipped from its pedestal by local boys year after year.
All along Main Street, there were large white houses, set back from the road, whose wide lawns were ringed with black iron fences punctuated by little spikes on top; pretty, architectural warnings that made it quite clear the grass and rhododendrons within were private property. On the approach to town, the white houses grew larger, as though a set of stacking toys had been fashioned from clapboards and brick. On the far side of town was the train station, and opposite stood a gas station and mini-mart, along with the dry cleaner's and a new supermarket. In fact, the town was sliced in two, separated by Main into an east and a west side. Those who lived on the east side resided in the white houses; those who worked at the counter at Selena's or ran the ticket booth at the train station lived in the western part of town.
Beyond Main Street the village became sparser, fanning out into new housing developments and then into farmland. On Evergreen Avenue was the elementary school, and if a person followed Evergreen due east, in the direction of Route 17, he'd come to the police station. Farther north, at the town line that separated Haddan from Hamilton, deposited in a no-man's-land neither village cared to claim, was a bar called the Millstone, which offered live bands on Friday nights along with five brands of beer on tap and heated arguments in the parking lot on humid summer nights. There had probably been half a dozen divorces that had reached a fevered pitch in that very parking lot and so many alcohol-induced fights had taken place in those confines that if anyone bothered to search through the laurel bordering the asphalt he'd surely find handfuls of teeth that were said to give the laurel its odd milky color, ivory with a pale pink edge, with each blossom forming the shape of a bitter man's mouth.
Beyond town, there were still acres of fields and a crisscross of dirt roads where Betsy had gotten lost one afternoon before the start of the term, late in the day, when the sky was cobalt and the air was sweet with the scent of hay. She'd been searching for a vegetable stand Lynn Vining in the art department had told her sold the best cabbages and potatoes, when she happened upon a huge meadow, all blue with everlasting and tansy. Betsy had gotten out of the car with tears in her eyes. She was only three miles from Route 17, but she might as well have been on the moon. She was lost and she knew it, with no sense whatsoever of how she had managed to wind up in Haddan, engaged to a man she barely knew.
She might have been lost to this day if she hadn't thought to follow a newspaper delivery truck into the neighboring town of Hamilton, a true metropolis compared to Haddan, with a hospital and a high school and even a multiplex cinema. From Hamilton, Betsy drove south to the highway, then circled back to the village via Route 17. Still, for some time afterward, she'd been unable to forget how lost she'd become. Even when she was beside Eric in bed all she had to do was close her eyes and she'd continue to see those wildflowers in the meadow, each and every one the exact color of the sky.
When all was said and done, what was so wrong with Haddan? It was a lovely town, featured in several guidebooks, cited for both its excellent trout fishing and the exceptional show of fall colors that graced the landscape every October. If Betsy continually lost her way on the streets of such a neat, orderly village, perhaps it was the pale green light rising from the river each evening that led her astray. Betsy had taken to carrying a map and a flashlight in her pocket, hopefully ready for any emergency. She made certain to keep to the well-worn paths, where the old roses grew, but even the rosebushes were disturbing when they were encountered in the dark. The twisted black vines were concealed in the black night, thorns hidden deep within the dried canes until a passerby had already come close enough to cut herself unwittingly.
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide


The River King is a novel as compelling as it is daring, an exploration of forgiveness and hope, a wondrous tale of innocence and evil, and of the secrets we keep.

For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if by a line drawn down the center of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the village from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. But one October night the two worlds are thrust together due to an inexplicable death, and the town's divided history is revealed in all its complexity. The lives of everyone involved are unraveled: from Carlin Leander, the fifteen-year-old girl who is as loyal as she is proud, to Betsy Chase, a woman running from her own destiny; from August Pierce, a boy who unexpectedly finds courage in his darkest hour, to Abel Grey, the police officer who refuses to let unspeakable actions—both past and present—slide by without notice.


Alice Hoffman's novels include Property Of, The Drowning Season, Angel Landing, White Horses, Fortune's Daughter, Illumination Night, At Risk, Seventh Heaven, Turtle Moon, Second Nature, Practical Magic, Here on Earth and Local Girls. She lives outside Boston.


"Spellbinding. Hoffman opens old wounds and inflicts new ones in this evocative mystery of innocence transgressed and evil expelled."—USA Today

"Alice Hoffman is, was, and always will be, a beautiful writer."—The Washington Post Book World


  • Hoffman dedicates much of the novel to describing The Haddan School campus in detail. In what ways do the School's physical descriptions mirror actual events in the novel? Is Hoffman's description of the Chalk House foreboding for its inhabitants?
  • The line between past and present, living and dead, is often blurred in the story, creating a mystical, haunting atmosphere in which anything seems possible. How does Annie Howe "live on" at the Haddan School? What mystical or supernatural qualities did Annie Howe display while she was alive? Are there any ghosts in the novel, and if so, how do these ghosts from the past inform the state of things in the present?
  • How are Carlin Leander and August Pierce different from the other students at the Haddan School? What does each do in an effort to mask that difference? Do they succeed in this effort?
  • Almost every major character Carlin Leander, Abel Grey, Betsy Chase, Dr. Howe is forced at some point to deal with the death of someone close to them in The River King. Carlin believes she is still in contact with Gus Pierce after his death, while Abel Grey cannot even talk of his brother's suicide at an early age. Which do you believe is the best way to deal with such loss? In your opinion, does Gus Pierce actually visit Carlin after his death and leave her gifts, or is there another explanation for this? What was your reaction when Gus Pierce "appears" in a photograph taken after his death?
  • Throughout The River King, Abel Grey and Betsy Chase undergo significant character changes, both internally and externally. Discuss.
  • Thanks to the deceitful actions of Abel Grey, Harry McKenna gets expelled from The Haddan School and loses his admission into Dartmouth, despite the fact that he didn't actually cheat on his exam. Is this fair? Does Harry McKenna deserve a more severe punishment for his role in Gus Pierce's death?
  • Haddan is divided between the haves and the have-nots or, the Haddan School students and the Haddan town residents. In what ways does the symbolic distance between the two become greater over the course of the novel? In what ways does this distance become shorter?
  • Both Abe and Carlin Leander feel guilty for the death of someone close to them—in Abe's case, his brother Frank, and in Carlin's case, Gus Pierce. In what other ways are the two characters alike, especially by the end of the novel?
  • What effect does the revelation about Abe's true grandparents have on Abe? Does it help explain anything about his personality? Why might Abe be aptly dubbed "The River King"?
  • Death imagery abounds in the second half of the novel. The last paragraph, however, contains a more hopeful image of Carlin swimming in the river one late afternoon. This parting sequence provides a positive contrast to the mostly dark images found up to that point: "the fish had grown used to her, and they swam along beside her, all the way home." Does this suggest the possibility of a brighter future for Carlin after the tragedy of Gus's death? Why do you think Carlin decides to swim in the river every day? Why, in your opinion, does Gus stop "visiting" her?
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 42 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2007

    don't encourage this author

    Bashing this author is a crusade with me. Call me nuts, but my point is valid. The story in the River King is despicable. It troubles me that anyone, young or old, would read this and find it enjoyable. A review by a boarding school student said it is realistic. I deny that, as a broading school tuition paying parent. If any parent or school official heard even a rumor or joke of dead rabbits, hazing etc, it would be stopped and students expelled. If not, lawsuits could soon follow. Gus is murdered horrifically and no one is held accountable? No one but one lone police officer demands accountability? Only the parent and Carlin mourns? What is Gus' crime that he is tortured, killed and so easily forgotten? This author lovingly creates real, sympathetic characters just to kill them off in the worst way imaginable. She is manipulating the reader with lazy sensational tricks and passing it off as a 'novel'. She should take her writing ability and imagination to build a story with something, somewhere that would not sicken the soul.

    3 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    Love, Murder, and The River King!

    The book is interesting from the start you open to the first page. The setting is in Haddan, Massachusetts on a river, which proves not to be an ideal location for an exclusive private school. From the start the school is in a lame in the middle of nowhere town and the first year of the school there is a flooding. In The River King, death, which is a reoccurring theme in this book, is around during the entire story. When Anne Jordan hangs herself because her husband, Dr. Howe who is the headmaster at Haddan School, who neglected her except for her gardens. Gus is the intelligent and innocent guy who nobody likes, so members of his fraternity, The Magician Club, kill him. This book when describing boarding school life is very true in that there is lots of hazing, mental abuse, and cruelty against students in all forms. A few really good parts of the book are: when characters turn white roses red, being a pharmacist in Haddan, and all the relationships in Haddan. Turning white roses red may seem impossible but it is not. For example Anne Jordan does this by have blood drip all over the rose and Gus completes this impossible task putting crystals on it and misting water over it. These both have fatal ends because Anne hangs herself and Gus is murdered. One thing I disliked about the book is how the author brings new characters in the book by describing them up to the point were you have to go back to read about what was happening again. I enjoyed the book mainly because the boarding school life theme of the novel and also because of the twist with love, innocents, death, and self-blaming in the novel. This book is recommended to all especially young adults who are about to experience time away from home or boarding life. Also, The River King would be a good read for most teenagers and adults who like suspense and who did it novels.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2005

    Not the Best but not the worst

    I had read Blue Diary several months ago and thought I would try another book of by Alice Hoffman. While the beginning of the book is very good, the middle and the end seem to drag on for quite a while. I am not used to the dreamy, magical stories that Hoffman creates and that can oftentimes make the book seem boring. I think she created great characters. I immediately fell in love with Abel Gray and hoped that he and Betsy would find each other in the end, a good love story. However, the death of Gus and the longing of Carlin to have him back was very skecthy. I think Hoffman wrote of a town that was stuck in yesterday. Many of her descriptions of the small town are not the same as they would be today. I would not recommend this book to anyone else but if you are indeed a Hoffman fan, this is one that would keep you interested.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2001


    I must confess I felt a bit soggy by the end of this novel. The relentless watery symbolism just got to be a bit much. In addition, I thought the book could have been edited down at least 50 pages, and still have kept its excellent story line and lyrical writing style. It seemed almost as if Ms. Hoffman, once having begun a descriptive passage, didn't know when to stop. But the characterizations are excellent (especially of the elderly teacher Helen Davis) and the plot is intriguing. I did not feel justice was sufficiently meted out in the end, but other readers may disagree.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable morality tale

    Haddan School was opened. The elite school became a target of hatred by the locals as none of them could afford sending a child to the preppy place. Instead, their children trekked in rain, snow, or freezing cold five miles to another town's public school. The school remains a fixture because the townsfolk recognize the financial gain of having it as a customer of local goods and services, but over the years the division has grown wider than the Grand Canyon. <P>The troubled community explodes when a student drowns in the nearby river. Though both sides and the police department want to wash away the death that threatens the delicate balance between the outsiders and the townies, Police Officer Abel Grey, fueled by his own brother's suicide, refuses to drop his investigation. As the obsessed cop digs deeper and gains enemies, lives begin to fall apart as shadows and demons from the past seemingly haunt everyone. <P>THE RIVER KING is a weird atmospheric morality drama that can be interpreted on many levels, but in each case a great social divide rings through the novel. Ethics is the common seed, but varies from person to person due to Alice Hoffman's incredible ability to lyrically paint real people with genuine problems inside an undertone of gloom. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2013

    Too many details

    Its a good book. Its just that in some parts the author layers it with details. And the details that keep you wanting more. But hey! Its just my opinion and im not even finished with it yet. Msybe youll like it. Or maybe ill like it in the end. The characters are kinda interesting. :/

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    A great tale

    An amazing story about right from wrong. With a hint of magic a handfull of love and a lot of mystery its a story that can draw a lot of people in with its raw emotion. A lot of things come to light by the end of this book. Overall a great story with a strong message.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2012

    Alice hoffman is a wonderful wtiter.

    To the person who said otherwise, i believe you are jealous.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mysterious and enigmatic, wonderful Hoffman.

    In a nutshell, I loved The River King. It is the third Hoffman novel I've read (previous ones are The Third Angel and The Ice Queen) and I think it's my favorite so far. Her narratives are so enigmatic and brooding they encompass the reader with a deep, internal sense of unease, and The River King is no exception.

    In Massachusetts, in the town of Hadden, there is a private high-school for the intelligent and the wealthy. Students and townspeople don't mix, don't mingle, and each side minds their own business. But when a young boy from the school is found drowned in the river, barriers are crossed and the lines dividing Hadden start to blur.

    Among the characters are Abel Grey, burdened by his brother's suicide when he was young; and Betsy Chase, chained to an impending marriage she no longer desires. There is Carlin Leander, smart and beautiful, but an outsider; and Gus Pierce, head over heels in love with Carlin and an outsider himself. A host of supporting characters lend weight to the plot, drawing everyone together. A deep, decades old suicide of one of the school's first residents also plays a background, as does the magical history of roses and water that Hoffman skillfully blends into the storyline. Her hints of the mysterious are gentle and persuasive; so realistic you almost wonder if they're magic at all.

    Much of the novel is told in asides, mentioning one character's story in reference to another. It takes a supreme talent to be able to start the reader headed in one direction, bend them toward another, but have them end up at the correct final destination. It's just one reason Hoffman's novels are so successful.

    The River King is dark and mysterious, it chills the reader page-by-page. If you're interested in reading Alice Hoffman's novels, I would definitely recommend The River King if you're in the mood for a mystery. If you're in the mood for one of her more contemporary novels, I point you toward The Third Angel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007


    If not for the slow start of the story, I would've given this book 5stars. The story is original, interesting and haunting. It's one kind of story that lingers on you. I like how Alice Hoffman ties her magical style in these kinds of stories. An intelligent book that would make you think.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2005

    For School

    I read it for one of my classes and fell completely in live with it. The River King is just a magical story that touches the reader through realistic characters and circumstances. To be honest, the magic of the story will last forever.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2003

    Too good to let GO!

    This book was one of my favarite Hoffeman's. The characters involved in the story were amazing and intricate. I really could not put the book down. I was done with it in two days. I'm even having trouble finding another book to read after reading The River King.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2003

    All Around Amazing Book

    I beleive that the River King was an amazing book because of the character development. You really get an inside look on how the author portrays the essence of the novel through her characters. The plot touches your heart and makes your really question the human condition. It was funny and sad and deep all at the same time. EXCELLENT!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2003

    A truely moving book

    Hey My name is Mary, and I am 15. I absolutley loved this book, it was shocking, sad, and inspiring. It has romance and tragedy. it can capture the attention of adults and teens.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    Sweet River

    This book intrigued me from the moment I started reading it to the point I finished it. It was very accurate to explain the life of a person at boarding school. The hazing and the cruel intentions the other boys brought upon Gus was a little extreme but not unbelievable. Also the way that Alice Hoffman keeps the readers interested but at the same time a little annoyed by bringing in new characters and describing them. Each and every character brought into this novel plays a crucial role in this book. Everyone brought into this book plays some part in the final outcome. I personally really enjoyed this book and was more concerned about Carlin and how she dealt with the problems in Haddan. That is probably the reason I was annoyed by the bringing of new characters that had nothing to do with how she felt. Again I recommend this book to those who enjoy novels of love and deception. The love comes from the relationships of the Dean and his wife, Abe and Betsy, Carlin and Gus, and the October weather. Deception is found in many parts of this novel. Where there is love deception is right behind it. Examples would be Carlin with Harry, Betsy cheating on Eric, Dean with his mistresses, and Harry with Amy. The love Carlin has for Gus never dies even when he does. I had a wonderful time reading this book and I believe you will too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    A story of Love and Deception

    I felt that this book was a good read. The book was written by Alice Hoffman, set at a boarding school called the Haddan School. It is a story about love and deception, for example the dean of the school is involved in an affair with his wife who at the time is fighting for a divorce. He then makes a deal with his wife saying that if she can turn a white rose red he would give her the divorce. While trimming the roses one day the wife accidentally cuts her finger and on instinct bleeds on the white rose thus amking it red, there's a problem, she then runs to show her husband but by the time she got there the rose had withered away and turned to ash. We'll just say that after that there is no need for a divorce. The main characters in this book are two teenagers one girl and one boy. The boy, Gus, is a kid struggling to be accepted, but at the same time is best friends with the most popular girl in school, Carlin. A girl that every guy wants to be with. This causes alot of conflict with the boys at school. Bad things start to happen at the school, and to Gus. Gus is later found in the river, dead. Carlin then is shocked by the whole thing and goes crazy, mutilating her hair, but yet at the same time she is still looked upon as the most gorgeous girl in school. a few other characters are Eric, the man in charge of the chalkhouse, which is the boys dorm, and his girlfriend Betsy who is the school photographer. After the death of Gus, Betsy looks back on pictures taken before the death, the only problem with that is all of the pictures have Gus somewhere in the background, but theres a catch, none of the pictures taken had anything to do with Gus. In fact he was no where to be found while the pictures were being taken. there was one thing in the novel i could not understand and that was the conncetion between the roses and the people. the referal to white roses in the book is used more times than not without any explination of why. This book is a definate must read "who done it" scenario.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    Where is my big ending?

    The River King is a classic "who done it" type of story. In that case, the book does not do a bad job at all, but I was disappointed in that I did not believe that the punishment of Harry, and the other boys involved in the murder of Harry was severe enough. First off, I believe that the book was way to long. It seemed that the author would get so involved in describing something that she would steer away from the main point. This does present a vivid setting, but at times it can be a little confusing. The flashbacks in the story were crucial. I loved how the author would tell you a little bit about a part and then fill in the rest later. For example, the suicide of the dean's wife raised a lot of questions in my mind, and kept me on my toes. It built up suspense with in me. Then later in the book the author filled in the holes. Almost like putting a puzzle together. I also thought the author was extraordinarily creative at points. For example, who could ever think of drowning someone in a toilet? I also liked the whole test of turning the white roses red. It seems that the turning of the white roses to red symbolized death. I am not a big fan of romances, but I could not help to notice the love stories with in the book, the love between Abe and Betsy, and Carlin and Gus. I did not mind it much though because there was so much deception along the way. Harry cheating on Carlin, and Betsy cheating on Eric sort of put a smile on my face. On a closing note, this book did have its high points, but I have most indefinitely read better books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    Love and Roses in Haddan

    This book tells a story about a town, and the people's lives that live there. I thought that the roses had more to do with the story just that roses. I think that the roses signify the strength of the town. When Annie Howe was trying to turn her white roses red, she could not to it. Then she cut her finger and stained the roses red with her blood. She was so proud of it that she tried to save it, but instead the rose died and fell apart. I think that in this part of the book, the town is like the rose, change to a beautiful thing can be devastating, and trying to change the town would result in failure, just like the rose falling apart. I also think that the dying rose signifies the foretelling of the towns mourning over Annie. After her suicide, many girls from the school could smell a strong fragrance of rose, because they missed her so much. After the death of Dr. How¿s wife, it brought the town down. This book is not focused on just one main character; the book is centered on the town itself. This is not a story about people; it is a story about the people in the town. Many other characters are well known throughout the book as well. Carlin was a young girl that went to a private school in the town of Haddan. She was chased around by Shawn and Gus. Even when Carlin mutilated, and cut her own hair, Shawn did not care what Carlin looked like. I thought that this book was very good, because it dose not just focus on one main person, this book makes you feel like you actually know what is going on in the town. Although I did not fully understand this book, it is a book that I would recommend many people to read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002


    The River King is written by Alice Hoffman. The River King is a fictional story about love and deception. This book is written in great details and thought out very well. I like this book because it holds a story about love and deception, just like how love and deception is in the real world. The book characterizes the things that happen in real life into this dramatic story. The River King makes you feel like the reader is actually in the book, feeling the same way that the other characters are feeling. This story starts out with a suicide. The person whom killed herself was the wife of the dean of the school. She was trapped and did not love her husband because of his disloyalty in their love. Anne was the husband of Dr. Howe. Anne had a thing for gardens and she had one of the best gardens. Dr. Howe told Anne that if she can make a white rose red then she can divorce him. One day while Anne was working in the garden she accidentally cut off her finger and the blood ran all over the rose. Anne was so happy, she returns to the house to show Dr. Howe. But to her dissatisfaction, the rose had turned into ashes; and she had nothing to show him. Then Anne hung herself due to the stress and sorrow. After her death, the whole Haddan School smelled like roses and therefore starts the book up with Carlin. The main character of this book is Carlin. She is a beautiful young girl that did not get much attention from her old high school. She transferred and arrived at Haddan in a train-station. On the train-station, Carlin meets with a very unpopular boy named Gus; and Gus immediately fell in love with Carlin. Upon arriving at the school, everyone thought Carlin was a great looking girl. As the book progresses, Carlin starts dating this guy name Harry, a very popular boy. Carlin finally got the attention she wanted from this new school. She was very happy at the school but meanwhile when all this was happening, a murder reveals itself. A boy was found in the river next to the school one-day. This boy was Gus! Everyone suspected that it was the boys who picked on Gus (Harry and his friends) that killed him but the detectives did not have any evidence. The guy in charge of the chalkhouse was Eric. He was going out with a teacher at the school who is named Betsy. As the found out about the murder, Betsy and Eric called the detective, Abe. Abe starts investigating the murder but does not have any hard evidence on the murderers. As the story progresses, Abe falls in love with Betsy and Abe later on finds out that the killers of Gus were Harry and his friends. Since Abe did not have any evidence, He planted an answer key of the final exam in Harry's room so he can get expelled. As the teachers found out about the answer key in Harry's room, they kicked him out of the school. Carlin got all stress out and shaved off all her hair. The photographer of the school also notices that in every picture with Carlin in it, Gus is always in the picture. This symbolizes Gus's death. At the end of the book, you find out how Gus dies and ends up in the river. Harry and his friends did not let Gus hang out with them, but he told Gus that if he can make a white rose red, then he can join them in the group. So Gus went to work and created some kind of Chemical and actually made the rose red. As the students found out about this, they got very mad and drowned Gus in a toilet after it had been used. Gus died of intoxication in his lungs. After finding this out Carlin leaves the school. Months go by until Carlin returns and she find out that the Haddan School was flooded by the river and everything was destroyed. This book is truly a great story to read. It is one of those books that you read and cannot put it down. I give it 5 stars.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2002

    Good Mystery

    This book was not the best but it was also not the worst I have ever read. It is a fast read if you can remember all of the characters, their history and their importance. Hoffman does an excellent job of introducing the characters and setting even if it took a hundred pages to accomplish. She uses this first part of the book to build the plot and show all of the different cliques not just in the teenagers but also the adults of the school and town. She even goes into detail about the history of not just the school but also some of the characters. The mystery in this book is not introduced until you are about a third of the way through. If you already know that this is a mystery book then you can pretty much predict who will be murdered. One of the few details that I do not like about the book is that it is very transparent. It is relatively obvious who will be murdered, why and who the murderer is, by the time the book tells you that someone has been murdered it is obvious which group did it and why. The only question left unanswered are the exact details like who actually murdered him, who are the accomplices and how they killed. The other detail that I did not like is the abundance of unrelated information. There seemed to be a lot of information that did not help to move the story along, but simply added more information to remember. Overall this was a good book and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good mystery.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)