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Mermer Blakeslee's prose strikes a fine balance between lyrical beauty and pragmatic economy, which means the storytelling becomes a metaphor for the way of life it describes. This is a coming of age story, and more. Leenie faces a crossroads that many women will recognize. And whether or not the decision Leenie makes is the best one or the right one, or even the one I would have chosen, what matters so very much is that she reached out with both hands and seized it for herself.
Mermer Blakeslee's novel about the Catskill Mountains Valley in the world of the 1930s is filled with hard realities: the displacing of farmers whose families have owned the river land for generations in order to flood their farms through eminent domain to build a reservoir to supply water to New York City. When You Live by a River is filled with love for these river people. It celebrates their persistence and courage. Blakeslee tells these people's stories with great tenderness, and no word is wasted.
Wow. Move over Faulkner, Blakeslee's in the house. An honest tale of good folks trying to make the best of the cards they've been dealt, told honestly in a pitch-perfect blend of prose and poetry. Well done.