In the mid-1800s, three immigrant familiesIrish, Japanese, and Mexicansettle along the American River in Northern California. A century later, only one family remains.
Owen McPhalans Mockingbird Valley Ranch is still a thriving family business in 1959. But when his wife, Marian, leaves Mockingbird to follow her dream of becoming a successful artist, she ignites a firestorm that impacts the descendants of all three families. As artists, musicians, writers, and politicians inherit their immigrant parents hopes, they are torn apart by ambition, prejudice, and deception while struggling through the turbulent 1960s. From the concert halls of Europe to Kyotos ancient avenues, and Manhattans artists lofts to San Franciscos North Beach, they each learn the price they must pay in order to realize their dreams. But just as the river is drawn to the sea, they eventually find themselves pulled back to the place that forged the original link between their destiniesa place called Mockingbird.
American River: Tributaries follows three California families as the descendants of Irish, Japanese, and Mexican immigrants embark on unique journeys to pursue their dreams amid an unsettled 1960s world.
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About the Author
Mallory M. OConnor holds degrees in art, art history, and American history from Ohio University. For twenty years, she taught art history at the University of Florida and Santa Fe College. She was also a feature writer for Business to Business magazine and authored two nonfiction books. Now retired, she resides in Micanopy, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
Genre: Historical Fiction
American River: Tributaries follows the lives of three families of Irish, Mexican, and Japanese descent. Though their ancestors all settled on the American River in Northern California, the generations following spread out across the country, making the families' interconnection all the more unlikely. But as the characters' lives overlap and collide, they undergo tremendous growth and are opened to new levels of understanding of each other, of life, and of themselves.
The story follows all the members of the three families and the changes that time brings them. For the McPhalans, things are changing on the Mockingbird Valley Ranch as the children are growing up, the adults are growing old, and the family is growing apart. The Ashida family, who work for the McPhalans, have their own struggles as they cope with being one of two Japanese families in the area, just over a decade after being released from internment camps. Familial relationships are even more strained in the Morales family, a Mexican-American, interracial family who is divided because of the resentments and grudges they cling to.
As the years go by, the families become more intertwined and their relationships become more complicated. Each character's introduction and individual story is engaging, and their involvement in other characters' lives is seamless and natural. Though there are many, the characters are thoroughly developed and perfectly imperfect. Their flaws are raw and real, often speaking to the time period they live in. With a diverse group of characters of various cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and economic statuses, O'Connor tackles discrimination, homophobia, and sexism in a way that is tasteful but stays true to the difficult and complex situations the characters face.
The plot is extremely fluid and the writing is well-executed; the various storylines are never confusing and perfectly align with each other, while the simple, but artistic, language sets a distinct mood and voice for each character. The scenes were never information-heavy and always contributed to the development and escalation of the plot. The tragic ending that unites the three families reminds us that despite our differences, unity and love overcome even the most stubborn prejudices.
At the beginning of the book, there is a "Cast of Characters" section which lists all the characters in the book, as well as a brief description of them. Though it seems helpful, the inclusion of this list of characters actually hinders the reader's experience. In fact, one of the descriptions in the character list includes a minor spoiler that would have been better off left for the readers to uncover at their own pace.
In addition, including a section like this emulates a lack of confidence on the author's part of her ability to clearly organize the story so that each character is distinct and memorable enough for the reader to keep track of them, thus needing to reference the character list. However, the list and the accompanying descriptions were unnecessary because, for O'Connor, her characters' voices, personalities, and lifestyles were so unique, memorable, and engaging that it was nearly impossible to forget them or their role in the novel.
Filled with descriptions of the beauty and grace of some of the United States' greatest cities and areas, American River: Tributaries is a true American story. As it delves into the realities of the various divides Americans coped with in the sixties, readers will be rooting for O'Connor's characters as they navigate the difficult spaces their identities attempt to force them into. AR: Tributaries is the perfect start to a series about family, pain, love, identity, and life in America.
Rating: 5 out of 5(Continues…)
Excerpted from "American River: Tributaries"
Copyright © 2018 Mallory M. O'Connor.
Excerpted by permission of Archway Publishing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Second chances are not easy to come by, but when they roll around, you grab them and hold on for dear life. No family quite knows the truth of this old adage as well as the McPhalan clan. Kate, Alex, and their mother, Marian, share a bond that unites them in more ways than one. All three women have had a relationship with Carl, and all three of them have found ways to discover love once more. When Kate decides to breathe new life into Mockingbird Valley Ranch, the home in which they all lived as a young family, mother and both daughters are presented with an amazing and unforeseen opportunity to renew themselves and their relationships with one another as adults. Mallory M. O’Connor’s American River Trilogy focuses on several different storylines surrounding the McPhalan family. These parallel plots play nicely against one another as the book progresses. Readers are treated to thorough descriptions of Kate and Alex’s backgrounds as well as a clear look at Marian’s history. O’Connor includes a lengthy list of secondary characters with their own storylines and this, at times, can be a little difficult to follow. Set in the 1970s, O’Connor masterfully integrates mentions of now historic events alongside the characters’ numerous dilemmas. She covers everything from the moon landing to the increasing focus on feminism. Each of the events and historical aspects gives the book a richer and more polished feel. American River Trilogy touches on a variety of difficult topics including post-traumatic stress disorder and interracial relationships. O’Connor deals with each of these highly-charged topics with style and grace. Her characters are genuine and leave readers rooting for them every step of the way. Alex’s particular story line is tragic and likely the most down-to-earth of any of the characters. The trauma of her past and the way it impacts her present life is a striking commentary on an all-too-common facet of the lives of many. O’Connor’s slow reveal of Alex’s damaged childhood is effective and powerful. As much as I found Carl’s inclination to move through the women in the McPhalan family to be somewhat disgusting in retrospect, I saw a whole new side of him when he came to Alex’s aid in her time of need. O’Connor’s writing is, what I would consider, specialized. There exists a specific audience for this particular piece. Centered around the arts and focusing primarily on the world of music, there is a plethora of discipline-specific terms and ideas within American River Trilogy. I did not find myself able to relate easily to many of Kate and Alex’s experiences. Readers who seek historical accuracy intermingled with their drama will appreciate O’Connor’s particular style. Classically-trained musicians and those who enjoy reading fiction with a peppering of music-specific terms will find American River Trilogy the perfect read.
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite American River: Tributaries is a work of historical fiction by author Mallory M. O’Connor, and the first book in the American River Trilogy. The story has its roots in the middle of the nineteenth century in a town called Mockingbird in North Carolina, along the banks of the title’s American River. One hundred years later, the descendants of three immigrant families from Mockingbird are going about the struggle of their daily lives when a decision by one of their number starts an interlinked chain of events. Despite their diverse lives and the three different cultures from which they originate, these tributaries all link back to the old river, back to Mockingbird and the destinies they can’t escape. What I particularly enjoyed about American River: Tributaries was the attention to detail that Mallory M. O’Connor puts into the cultural side of characterization. The roots of Irish, Japanese and Mexican culture are brought to life with such immersive detail that I felt I was directly involved in each of the characters’ lives in every scene. Whilst the novel itself tracks the life path of several couples and singles, the romantic element is very heavy and readers of traditional romantic and erotic fiction will find plenty to enjoy here as well. For me, the real story about the decisions made in life and the way your roots never truly leave you was what had me hooked. Overall, I’d definitely recommend American River: Tributaries to fans of both romance and family dramas.