Into This River I Drown
Title : Into This River I Drown
Author : TJ Klune
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Angels and Demons, Fantasy/Paranormal
Length : 400 pages (e-book)
Published : March 25, 2013
At once an exploration of grief and faith, Into This River I Drown is one man’s journey into the secrets of his father and discovering the strength to believe in the impossible.
Five years ago, Benji Green lost his beloved father, Big Eddie, who drowned when his truck crashed into a river. All called it an accident, but Benji thought it more. However, even years later, he is buried deep in his grief, throwing himself into taking over Big Eddie’s convenience store in the small town of Roseland, Oregon. Surrounded by his mother and three aunts, he lives day by day, struggling to keep his head above water.
But Roseland is no ordinary place.
With ever-increasing dreams of his father’s death and waking visions of feathers on the surface of a river, Benji’s definition of reality is starting to bend. He thinks himself haunted, but whether by ghosts or memories, he can no longer tell. It’s not until the impossible happens and a man falls from the sky and leaves the burning imprint of wings on the ground that he begins to understand that the world around him is more mysterious than he could have possibly imagined. It’s also more dangerous, as forces beyond anyone’s control are descending on Roseland, revealing long hidden truths about friends, family, and the man named Calliel who Benji is finding he can no longer live without.
“Time is a river, I’ve learned. Always moving forward. But for people like me, people who have loved and lost, the river is something we fight. We swim against the current, trying to get back to the way we once were, trying to hold onto anything to keep us from getting swept away. It’s exhausting and eventually we tire. Still we push on.” Benji Green has been slowly drowning in grief for the past five years. At the age of sixteen, the death of his father, Big Eddie, in a single vehicle crash into a river left Benji reeling from the loss of his best friend, his mentor, his rock. Benji’s grief for his father is heartbreaking in its description. “For want of my father, I was lost.” Five years later and Benji is at a tipping point: let his grief completely drown him, or learn to let go of it.
The book opens with a hypothetical outsider – the reader – passing through the town of Roseland, stopping to fill up at the local service station and repair shop/convenience store called Big Eddie’s Gas And Convenience. At first I was unsure about the use of that technique, but once I started thinking of it like the opening of a movie with Benji over voicing, it clicked into place and put me right there in the driver’s seat and in that town. The first chapter is heavy with flashbacks, setting up the character of Benji, the grief he bears and the town he lives in. There’s a good juxtaposition created with use of present tense for current time against past tense for the flashbacks. I rarely connect with books written in present tense, but that was most certainly not the case with this book. Apart from the initial observation, I actually forgot I became so immersed! The pace of the present is slow in comparison, giving that sense of moving through molasses that comes with grief, especially the long term grief that Benji can’t let go of. He’s surviving day to day with the help of family, his three aunts moved in to help he and his mother after the death of Big Eddie and never moved back out, and Abe, the best friend he inherited from his father and who loves Benji like his own. The secondary characters are all fully fleshed out and vibrantly real. Benji’s aunt, Nina, has a rare form of Down Syndrome that isn’t as severe as the more common type and is wonderful and funny, loving and scarily insightful. I just completely adored her. Abe is an old man who’s been regularly bringing his car in since the death of his wife a decade previously; “He just needs someone to talk to,” my father had told me once. “After Estelle dies, he got lonely. It’s what happens when you’re with someone for over sixty years, Benji. When that is suddenly gone, you’re lost. He just needs help finding his way back.” Something that Benji learns for himself all too well.
Benji has had suspicions about his father’s death for years. Maybe that’s just the denial of his grief talking, but what if it isn’t? One of the few things that have helped keep his head above water all those years is the feeling of a hand on his shoulder and a whisper of a breath on the back of his neck at the times when the river of his grief have threatened pull him under. Maybe Big Eddie is still with him after all? Just when Benji feels like nothing can stop him from drowning, a man falls from the sky. A man who appears to have left an imprint of wings on the ground where he landed. A man named Calliel. Wonderful, funny, fierce, Calliel claims to be the guardian angel of Roseland and its inhabitants. And he is especially protective of Benji. I completely and utterly fell for Calliel. Benji, however, took his time! I like that, though. I liked that Benji doesn’t immediately fall into Cal’s arms as though it’s fate or pre-ordained or just because Cal fell from the sky. And appeared to possess wings. I loved Cal’s mischievousness and the banter between him and Benji. And his quirky humour. Loved that he can be funny one second and serious the next. TJ Klune has truly breathed life into his characters. Rich and flawed and so very real. Even the angel. “Even after two days, I can see that there are so many sides to him…There’s times he exudes such strength that it threatens to knock me flat…Those are the times that I do believe he is an angel, that I do believe he guards us as he says he does. Then there are his other sides, most specifically when he seems unsure, hesitant…His wonder is almost childlike in its mien. He sees things I no longer can because it is as if he’s experiencing everything for the first time…And then there’s the darker part of him. I will send you and yours into the black. I don’t want to think about that part. I don’t want to know what “the black” is. It’s only been two days since he fell from the sky, but those two days have shown just how little I really know about the world.”
This is a love story. It’s about the love Benji finds with Cal, because it’s Cal, not because Cal may or may not be an angel. But it’s also a story about the love between father & son. To Benji, Big Eddie was the greatest father to have ever lived. The smartest, the kindest, the fastest and the funniest man in the world. He was beloved not just by his son and wife, but the also the small town he lived in. Through Benji’s memories he was very much a present character in this book, regardless of the fact that he was gone. The flashbacks illustrate not only Benji’s grief and anger, but they also illustrate, beautifully, his complete love for an unassuming but nonetheless amazing man.
While there are a couple of oh-my-god-I-need-a-fan sex scenes, and some smouldering tension in between, they aren’t the main focus of either the book or the romance. There are several threads going on in this book, and every one of them is perfectly woven into the others creating a wonderfully rich tapestry. It’s a mystery, a love story, an exploration of grief, of family and, ultimately, of hope. That mystery thing? There’s a big twist that I did not see coming! Into This River I Drown wasn’t all sorrow and angst, though. Not at all. Humour was effortlessly woven into that tapestry throughout the book. Cal’s irrepressible mischievousness and, usually successful, attempts to make Benji smile were impossible not to smile along with and there were so many laugh out loud moments. There was also a lot of hope. Benji’s slow introduction back into his own life and his family. “This is my family, and the noise around me is soothing in a way it hasn’t been in quite a long time. That’s mostly my doing, I know, given my self-imposed exile in the Land of Sorrow. But hearing the overlapping voices and laughter, seeing the bright eyes and smiles, does more for me than I thought it could.”
Into This River I Drown was haunting and beautiful and hopeful and has stayed with me in the days since I finished it. I think it will be staying with me for a while more. I’m glad about that.
“But he came, when I was at my darkest. I prayed him down from the sky, and he came in a flash of blue fire that lit up the heavens. I know he came by his own choice, but he came because I called him. He came when I could no longer take the weight of the world on my own. He came when I needed him the most. He came and saved me from myself, saved me from the waters that rose up to my chest and over my head.”
Rated 5 stars by BookSmitten