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Rivers

Rivers

A Novel

  • reading group guide
For fans of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx, “a wonderfully cinematic story” (The Washington Post) set in the post-Katrina South after violent storms have decimated the region.

It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land.

The Gulf Coast has been brought to its knees. Years of catastrophic hurricanes have so punished and depleted the region that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules—including Cohen, whose wife and unborn child were killed during an evacuation attempt. He buried them on family land and never left.

But after he is ambushed and his home is ransacked, Cohen is forced to flee. On the road north, he is captured by Aggie, a fanatical, snake-handling preacher who has a colony of captives and dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region. Now Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman’s prisoners across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down—and Cohen harboring a secret that poses the greatest threat of all.

Eerily prophetic in its depiction of a Southern landscape ravaged by extreme weather, Rivers is a masterful tale of survival and redemption in a world where the next devastating storm is never far behind.This is the kind of book that lifts you up with its mesmerizing language then pulls you under like a riptide” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451699449 | 
  • September 2013
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Video

Michael Farris Smith on the inspiration for RIVERS: A NOVEL

Imagine a world where the rain just doesn’t stop.

Read an Excerpt

Rivers 1
IT HAD BEEN RAINING FOR weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and the sunshine glistened across the drenched land. It rained now, a straight rain, not the diagonal, attacking rain, and it seemed that the last of the gusts had moved on sometime during the night and he wanted to get out. Had to get out of the house, away from the wobbling light of the kerosene lamp, away from the... see more

Hear an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Rivers includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

Devastating storms have pummeled the already eroded coastline of the American Southeast and the federal government has drawn a boundary, known as the Line, declaring everything below it uninhabitable. This is the setting for Rivers, a land of lawlessness and desperation, where no one has electricity or resources and no one and nothing is safe from looters, vandals, and violent storms that surge without warning, destroying everything in their path. Having lost his wife and unborn child during a mandatory evacuation, Cohen has decided to stay behind, rebuilding his house over and over again as an altar to his deceased family. On his way back from buying supplies one day, Cohen picks up two teenage hitchhikers, a boy and a Creole girl, who attack and nearly kill him, stealing his Jeep , all his supplies and the last precious mementoes he had of his wife and child. His will to survive becomes bound to finding and punishing his attackers, who are themselves prisoners in a commune run by a nefarious preacher with dangerous and twisted plans. He is now faced with the decisi see more

About the Author

Michael Farris Smith
Photograph by Chris Jenkins

Michael Farris Smith

Michael Farris Smithhas been awarded the Transatlantic Review Award, Brick Streets Press Short Story Award, Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, and the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature. He is a graduate of Mississippi State and the Center for Writers at Southern Miss. He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters. Rivers is his first novel.

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