The Banks of Certain Rivers
By Jon Harrison
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: 9/23/2014
My Rating: 4 Stars
In the lakeside resort town of Port Manitou, Michigan, dedicated teacher and running coach Neil Kazenzakis shoulders responsibilities that would break a lesser man: a tragic accident has left his wife seriously debilitated, he cares for his mother-in-law who suffers from dementia, and he’s raising his teenage son, Chris, on his own. On top of all that, he’s also secretly been seeing Lauren, his mother-in-law’s caregiver.
When Neil breaks up a fight one day after school, he doesn’t give the altercation much thought. He’s got bigger issues on his mind, like the fact that Lauren is ready for a commitment and he has to figure out a way to tell Chris that he’s in a serious relationship with someone other than the boy’s mother. But when an anonymous person uploads a video of the fight to YouTube, the stunning footage suggests Neil assaulted a student. With his job, his family, and his reputation suddenly in jeopardy, Neil must prove his innocence and win back the trust of the entire community—including his son’s.
Jon Harrison’s The Banks of Certain Rivers is a powerful tale of family, loss, and the meaning of love.
Jon Harrison’s debut novel, The Banks of Certain Rivers is a mixture of family drama, tragedy, humor, love and loss. One man’s heartbreaking, moving and emotional story, as it spins out of control, and in the midst of extraordinary circumstances--life changing decisions in a fragile world.
In the lakeside resort town of Port Manitou, Michigan, dedicated teacher and running coach Neil Kazenzakis is in the midst of a melt-down (he deserves it).
While vacationing with his family, (Wendy –wife, Chris-son), an accident, leaving his wife seriously debilitated. He is left alone to care for his teenage son, Chris, his wife, he also has the burden of caring for his mother-in-law who suffers from dementia and to further complicate matters—he is secretly dating Lauren, his mother-in-law’s caregiver. (Some heavy stuff).
So, now life must go on in the midst of tragedy. Time does not stand still. Years later, Wendy is in long term care, and is not responsive. Carol, Wendy's mother, isn't well and she lives next door to them. While the secret relationship heats up between him and Lauren, he knows he has to find a way to tell his son. When Lauren discovers she is pregnant – it is imperative he bring the relationship out in the open.
Too add fuel to the fire, he is breaking up a fight at school, and someone videos it, making it appear as though he was involved, questioning his integrity as a teacher. It goes viral and now he is close to losing it all, as he has to prove his innocence.
In combination, his secret love affair with Lauren, and his fear of telling his son; his guilt, betrayal, and loyalty. How much can one man handle? How will he cope? As Neil fights to keep his job, his relationship with Lauren, Chris’ feelings, and the pressure of perhaps having to sell his in-laws' land to cover the bills.
With the emails, twists and turns, and slow building suspense, the novel’s voice told from Neil’s POV, allowing the reader to experience firsthand the hard choices, a caregiver, memories from the past, the turmoil of the present and the uncertainty of the future – there is much depth, and emotion from this flawed realistic character.
I listened to the audio version, narrated by Mikael Naramore and while his voice was pleasant, he was reading it more like a script than most, which sometimes threw off the impact of the overall novel; however, Jon Harrison’s The Banks of Certain Rivers is a beautiful and funny debut novel, and look forward to reading more!