Reviewed by Morgan
Title: Into This River I Drown
Author: T.J. Klune
Narrator: Matt Baca
Heroes: Benji Green/Cal Blue
Genre: MM Contemporary
Length: 400 Pages / 18 Hours, 45 Minutes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: Book – March 25, 2013 / Audio – August 19, 2014
Available at: Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Audible and iTunes
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: Five years ago, Benji Green lost his beloved father Big Eddie when his truck crashed into a river. Everyone called it an accident, but Benji knows it was more. Even years later, he’s buried in his grief, throwing himself into managing Big Eddie’s convenience store in the small-town of Roseland, Oregon. Surrounded by his mother and three aunts, he lives day to day, struggling to keep his head above water.
But Roseland is no ordinary place.
With ever more frequent dreams of his father’s death and waking visions of feathers on the river’s surface, Benji finds his definition of reality bending. He thinks himself haunted; by ghosts or memories, he can no longer tell. Not until a man falls from the sky, leaving the burning imprint of wings on the ground, does Benji begin to understand that the world is more mysterious than he ever imagined – and more dangerous. As uncontrollable forces descend on Roseland, they reveal long-hidden truths about friends, family, and the stranger Calliel – a man Benji can no longer live without.
Review – Book: Benji Green lives in a small town in Oregon and has lost his dad – he drowned in a river nearby. He and his dad were very close, and he is struggling still with the loss of a man who was his father and his best friend.
While he struggles with this loss, he balances on the edge of extreme depression, to the point where drowning himself seems like it might be an option. He is saved from this possibility by a “man” falling from the sky – not just any man but his guardian angel, Caleil (“Cal”).
Benji has felt Cal before but has never seen him or realized it was anything more than his imagination until Cal “falls” and enters the human realm in a human form. Together, they cut through a mystery that holds the little town captive with it’s shockingness and also battle on other “fronts” to find Cal’s Truth.
In the end – after a lot of twists and turns – we get a glorious happy ending, and at least some of the mystery gets solved.
I’m going to just go out and say it: this was not my favorite T.J. Klune book.
I know. I am entirely in the minority.
It won awards for Pete’s sake! Everywhere you look, 5 star reviews. Many, many people adored this book.
Well, I guess I’m going to have to be happy living in the minority.
There are absolutely elements of this book that are genius. Touching. Heartbreaking. Thought provoking. Astounding. No joke, some amazingly eloquent, gut-wrenching and MOVING writing. But, it was absolutely buried at times.
It’s a long book. 18 hours in audio format. There is a lot of the book – in my opinion – that could have been trimmed to focus on the amazingly simple and beautiful story buried in a lot of detail and (dare I say it) repetition.
To me, the problems lie primarily in the editing. For example: I think that the message of Benji’s grief was made clear. Very clear. Maybe we could have heard a bit less of the grief and still understood how it affected him.
We got to see how awesome Big Eddy is, but maybe at the expense of making Benji a more likable character. When it came time for us to root for the pairing of Benji and Cal, I was hard-pressed to see what Cal saw in Benji. Maybe a bit more time could have been spent building Benji up as someone an angel could love, instead of seeing him as someone in need of rescue.
As for the rest – well, here personal taste comes in to play. I know there was some – probably amazingly artistically fantastic – analogies and metaphors – God and Big Eddy, the Trio, the Archangels… deep stuff. But, I kept getting bogged down in the fact that I despise the idea of God being made into this separate vengeful creature with all these big plans for every last person and then “testing” them and “testing” his Angels, etc. I just hate that way of thinking, so it distracted me mightily from enjoying this particular plot turn. I can distantly appreciate that having a gay archangel fall to earth to rescue a depressed guy after his dad dies, and then having the archangel also have a crisis in faith himself, is probably an amazing allegory for something, but I didn’t really feel motivated to figure it all out. (Parts of the plot reminded me of Supernatural: Cal is hanging out with Sam and Dean and then there’s a deeper darker subplot in On High (Heaven) and then more drama on earth. This just didn’t have the sarcastic, drunken demon hunting to lighten the mood between deep and meaningful moments.) So, for those of you who dig the fallen-angel story-line and appreciate finding the hidden meaning in stories – this book is right up your alley.
I feel like this at Oscar time too. Sometimes, I just don’t seem to like what wins awards…I can appreciate the artistic genius, but I can’t necessarily call it something “I recommend”. As a result, I have a tough time rating this book. It felt like work to get through at times, and honestly, if I wasn’t writing this review, I would have given up on it as soon as the angels started talking about being cast out and God’s “trials”, etc. That’s just really not my cup of tea.
Story rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Review – Audio version: Matt Baca did a phenomenal job with this. I don’t know how much say he gets in the production aspect, but I really appreciated the work they did. Much of this book is a “flashback” or in Benji’s head, meaning if you were reading it, you’d know because it’s in italics. To account for this, there is a special echo-y effect that they used to give the impression of being in Benji’s head rather than experiencing it in real time. I appreciated this, as it helped keep the story straight. To some, it may seem gimmicky and might even bug you because it gets used a lot. I liked it.
Matt did a great job with making individual characters sound unique, without going over the top. I particularly liked his version of Lola, Benji’s mom. She had this great world-weary voice I thought was spot-on.
I hadn’t listened to any of his other work, but I would look for it now.
I highly recommend his narration and give the audio version of the book a 4 of 5.
Overall, together, I give the audio version of Into this River I Drown a 3 of 5 hearts because the narration really added to the story, and the story, though really long, had a great message and some amazingly creative ideas.
Overall Impression: It was good
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.*