The River Road: A Novel

The River Road: A Novel

by Karen Osborn

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David and Michael Sanderson are brothers, inseparable since childhood from each other and from their neighbor Kay Richards, a complicated young woman involved in a passionate and obsessive love affair with David. One spring night, while at home on a break from college, the threesome embarks on a night of adventure and experimentation, driving recklessly through the

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David and Michael Sanderson are brothers, inseparable since childhood from each other and from their neighbor Kay Richards, a complicated young woman involved in a passionate and obsessive love affair with David. One spring night, while at home on a break from college, the threesome embarks on a night of adventure and experimentation, driving recklessly through the Connecticut Valley. Stopping at the French King Bridge, David -- full of hubris and hallucinogens -- dares to jump, mistakenly believing he'll be able to swim ashore. With this one act, he sets in motion an inexorable chain of events that indelibly alters the lives of everyone involved.

Told through the alternating voices of Kay, Michael, and David's father, Kevin, The River Road is a closely observed and psychologically penetrating narrative of the accusations, murder investigation, and courtroom battle that follow.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Teen angst and jealousy spin out of control in this tale of a tragic love triangle. Brothers David and Michael have been in love with Kay since she moved in next door; seduced first by the novelty of Kay's missing father, then by her burgeoning sexuality, the boys become her best friends. But as the three move into their teenage years, golden boy David develops a daredevil streak and Michael's jealousy swells. When they get to college, David and Kay embark on an all-consuming affair, while Michael watches and simmers. All comes to a head on a nighttime repeat of their childhood rambles through the Connecticut countryside, which ends at the French King Bridge. Much of the novel is devoted to reconstructing the next half hour: what is clear is that Kay and David both dropped acid, then David jumped off the bridge believing he could swim to shore and never made it. As in Osborn's previous novel, Patchwork, alternating points of view tell a story of parental blindness and all-consuming love. In the end, it hardly matters why David jumped, or why Kay didn't. The point is that David was one of those magnetic but destructive personalities who, even in death, leave behind a trail of hurt. Osborn's prose is clean and neat, but the curious flatness of the narration-emotions blankly stated instead of evoked-robs the story of depth and power. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Kay and David, inseparable childhood friends and now college lovers, are tripping on LSD one chilly spring night and making out on top of the French King Bridge. Then David climbs the rail, convinced that he can jump and safely make it to shore despite the tremendous height and freezing water of the Connecticut River. He urges Kay to join him in the ultimate rush. Then he goes over, and in one unpredictable moment, two families' lives change forever. His brother Michael, from his vantage point at the end of the bridge, can't be sure of what he sees, and even Kay, in her confused state, doesn't know what truly happened or why she's still alive. Osborn's third novel (after Patchwork and Between Earth and Sky) is a compelling and believable account of friendship, jealousy, and personal tragedy. Similar in theme and impact to Jodi Picoult's The Pact, it also uses alternating voices that explore guilt and parental responsibility, as in Russell Banks's The Sweet Hereafter. This exceptional book is highly recommended for all libraries.-Christine Perkins, Jackson Cty. Lib. Svcs., Medford, OR Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-David was the golden one. Kay and Michael were his satellites. Growing up in Western Massachusetts, where the boys' father and Kay's mother taught at the local university, the three friends, isolated by space and inclination, were inseparable. David, slightly older than the other two, was a high achiever, scholastically and athletically, and the focus of his father's dreams. When David and then Kay went to the university, they became more than friends and Michael was left behind. The novel opens on one night in the early spring, when David, on an LSD trip, jumps from the French King bridge over the snow-swollen river and drowns. In that instant, everyone's life changes forever. Michael, resentful of Kay's connection to his brother and everyone's distress over David's death, indicates that Kay might have pushed David. His distraught father seizes upon the possibility as an explanation for this seemingly inexplicable event and pursues the idea with the police. Kay, already mistrusted by them for not having been truthful about her relationship with David or their taking acid, is arrested and tried for manslaughter. The trial and its aftermath dissolves one marriage, causes Kay's mother to move away, results in Kay's leaving school and listlessly moving on with her life, and Michael's continuing resentment and lack of direction. Told from three points of view, shifting in time from the event to its aftermath, the story sweeps readers along. The reactions are in keeping with character, and the characters are easily understood. A thought-provoking read.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Osborn (Between Earth and Sky, 1996, etc.) offers a haunting tale of the grief, jealousy, recrimination, and revenge in the wake of a young man's accidental death. Kay always knew that she was bound to marry either David or Michael. An only child who never knew her father, Kay grew up lonely and insecure in the Massachusetts college town where her mother taught art history and made pottery. She became inseparable from the two brothers who lived next door and for years seemed almost a part of their family. In high school, Kay started dating David, and they had already begun a fairly passionate affair by the time both entered college-right there in town, under the watchful eyes of their families. David, brighter and more outgoing than Michael, was a golden boy: the apple of his father's eye, forever trying to test his limits, break records, and surpass everyone's expectations. Michael was content to stay in the shadows. One night, however, David's hubris became his undoing when, having taken LSD, he jumped off a bridge (convinced that he could dive safely into the river and swim to shore) and died. During the police investigation that followed, Michael claimed that Kay (who was with David at the time) pushed him, and she was brought to trial for manslaughter. Was Michael's testimony the pent-up envy of the scorned brother? Not entirely-for, on the very day of David's funeral, Kay seduced Michael (or did Michael seduce Kay?). At any rate, Kay is left in a very bad position indeed, since she had concealed a number of things from the police in her initial interview (mainly that she and David had been lovers), and now her credibility is called into question just when she needs it most. Narratedfrom different perspectives in alternating chapters, the story has a Rashomon-like intensity. Carefully constructed and well told: a work of tremendous, quiet power.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Award-winning poet Karen Osborn grew up on Grand Island, New York, where she lived in a rural area along the banks of the Niagara River. She graduated from Hollins College, an all-women's college in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and went to graduate school in the Ozarks of Arkansas. Since then she has lived in both the southeast and New England and has taught literature and creative writing at several colleges and universities. She is the author of two previous novels, Patchwork, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Between Earth and Sky. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her husband and two daughters.

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