“Where the River Ends” reviewed in “The Fayetteville Observer”
This is an interesting take on my writing. Some good insight, too.
July 27, 2008
A trip with predetermined end
By Sue Kimball
“Cinderella” meets National Geographic, meets “Love Story,” Art History 101, the “Journal of Cancer Research” and “Deliverance.”
Charles Martin’s novel, “Where the River Ends,” is all of the above. He frames the novel by telling the Cinderella story in reverse. Abbie Coleman is the debutante daughter of a former governor of South Carolina and the state’s current senior U.S. senator. She is a nationally known model who attended private schools and has a triple Charleston name — Abigail Grace Eliot Coleman. Abbie falls in love with Doss Michaels, the narrator of the story, who grew up in a trailer park, worked as a fishing guide, and managed to attend the College of Charleston on an art scholarship. The two marry despite the vigorous objections of Abbie’s parents.
Travel is a theme. Ten years after the marriage, Abbie is sick and knows she is dying. She tells Doss that she wants to travel the St. Mary’s River from its beginning in the Okefenokee Swamp to the Atlantic Ocean. Doss outfits two canoes to fulfill her desire. Doss describes the river as he navigates eastward — every turn, its width and depth at various points, and all the flora, fauna and fish that inhabit the river and its banks.
The love story is the love of Doss and Abbie, and it is extraordinary. The art history course comes from Doss, who has painted since he was a child. Abbie plans trips to art museums for the two of them so that Doss can actually see the works of Rubens, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bellini, Giotto, Titian, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael. The finale is Rembrandt, who could “read people,” invite sympathy and inspire confidence in Doss, a fellow portrait painter.
Doss describes every symptom of Abbie’s advancing cancer — the cancer journal part of the novel — and administers shots and dosages to relieve her pain. He actually steals medication for the trip down the river, with the help of a friendly doctor, who turns his back.
The couple run into troubles beyond the circumstances of Abbie’s health.
The “Deliverance” part is when four bumpkins assault Doss, take his shotgun and try to rape Abbie.
This tale is a pleasure to read because it eloquently pictures unquestioning, steadfast love. The description of the river scenery is a bonus. This is also a serious book. The only humor occurs when Abbie and Doss try to make light of their sad situation.
Martin has a degree in English from Florida State University and degrees in journalism and communication from Regent University in Virgina Beach, Va. He lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with his wife and three sons.
Sue Kimball can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .