Where the River Ends
Abbie Michaels is dying of cancer. Her husband of 14 years, Doss, who grew up on the St. Mary's River in southern Georgia, had promised her a trip down the river many years earlier. All the doctors have given up any hope, so in the middle of the night Doss and Abbie sneak away from hospice and her domineering father so she can take that last trip. They drive from their home in Charleston to Georgia and embark on a 130 mile canoe trip.
Doss had grown up in a trailer park and went to school in Charleston on an art scholarship. Abbie is the daughter of a prominent, famous politician. She was a fashion model. She and Doss made an odd couple, yet they knew the other held their heart. Her father never accepted Doss despite the years they were married.
Now they start down the river at Abbie's request. Within the first couple nights their possessions are stolen or destroyed and the shotgun is stolen. All they have is the clothes on their backs, the canoes and paddles, a pistol, and the box with Abbie's drugs to minimize her pain and discomfort on the trip. Her father has announced that Doss kidnapped his wife when she should be home with her family. The police now have a manhunt for them. Doss is determined that Abbie has this last trip and can reach the spot she has chosen where she wants to die.
Charles Martin can wring out the poignancy of a tale and still make it come out with a positive ending. The reader knows from the beginning that Abbie cannot survive. Where the River Ends is instead the story of Doss and Abbie throughout their time together, told in first person by Doss.
It is also the story of fighting fast spreading cancer. Abbie has a malignant (in the emotional sense as well as medical sense) cancer that continues to outpace surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. As Doss relates the years in treatment, he touches on the women with breast cancer who are abandoned by the men in their lives, the loneliness of the spouse who isn't ill, the helplessness of the doctors, and the hope for new treatment that may cure.
The biggest problem I have with Where the River Ends is that the story isn't filled out enough. Martin gives descriptions of happenings in Doss and Abbie's personal history, then glosses over repercussions (as from when they married without her father's permission). We know her father despises Doss, but we see little direct interaction between the two. It is amusing, though, when they are sitting in a waiting room and Doss says they have an agreement - Abbie's parents don't talk to him and he only talks to them when they speak to him.
Yes, I was tearing up by the end of the book - this is that kind of tale. But the hope is there at the end - as expected in Martin's work. Although the personal history is weak, the present day story is strong enough to carry this book through and satisfy the reader. Be ready to have your heart wrung out some and learn about the strength people find and exhibit.
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These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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