The River Widow
By: Ann Howard Creel
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 12/1/2018
My Rating: 4 Stars Her freedom must begin with a lie.
In 1937 with flood waters approaching, Adah Branch accidentally kills her abusive husband, Lester, and surrenders his body to the raging river, only to be swept away herself. So begins her story of survival, return to civilization, defense against accusations of murder, and the fight to save herself and her step-daughter, Daisy, from the clutches of her husband’s notoriously cruel family, who have their sights set on revenge for Lester’s death. Essentially trapped, Adah must plan an escape. But when she develops feelings for the one person essential to her plan's success, she faces a painful choice: Will she choose to risk everything saving Daisy or take the new life offered by a loving man?
A POPSUGAR Fiction Pick for Fall
A Parade magazine Fall Book Pick
A She Reads Fall Book Pick
“Ann Howard Creel’s accomplished, fluid storytelling makes for a pacey, page-turning read.” —Gemma Liviero, author of Pastel Orphans and Broken Angels
“The River Widow grabbed me from the first page. Ann Howard Creel’s elegant and vivid prose brings to life a remarkable woman’s struggle against oppressive forces during one of the darkest periods of American history. Haunting and ultimately uplifting, The River Widow is one of the best books I’ve read this year.” —Olivia Hawker, author of The Ragged Edge of Night
“The River Widow by Ann Howard Creel shows a mother’s fierce love for a child of her heart.” —Laila Ibrahim, bestselling author of Yellow Crocus and Mustard Seed
“The River Widow paints a vivid picture of life on a 1937 tobacco farm under the shadow of one family’s corruption and exploitation of others. A page-turner from the start, the story draws you in with a simple but compelling question: After murdering her husband in self-defense, can a young woman save her child from the cruelty of her in-laws?”—D.M. Pulley, bestselling author of The Buried Book
“Ann Howard Creel weaves a haunting, compelling tale. This simmering novel grips you and draws you in.” —Ella Carey, bestselling author of The House by the Lake
From the Editor
It’s easy for me to take the most basic things for granted—my home, my family, and the fact that as a woman in the twenty-first century, I can earn a living, unlike most women of past generations. That’s why The River Widow had such a deep impact on me. Our heroine, Adah, has no home, no family, and no income. After a devastating flood and the death of her husband, she’s left with nothing but the clothes on her back and an unwavering determination to save her beloved stepdaughter, Daisy, from a life of misery.
In the Deep South in the 1930s, opportunities for women are scarce. Adah can’t just go out and get a job. She’s not from the area, and the townspeople don’t take kindly to outsiders. Anyway, who would hire an uneducated woman of questionable background? The only option is to stay with her cruel in-laws. They barely tolerate her presence, suspecting Adah of murdering their son. She’s trapped. If she stays, she risks being charged with her husband’s murder. If she flees, she abandons Daisy to what will surely be a brutal upbringing.
But Adah is a fighter, even if she may not realize it at first. After years of being battered by her husband, she’s become a shadow of the young woman she once was. But she takes stock of what she still has left—strong hands, an abiding love for Daisy, and a deep yearning for a place to call home. Step by step and under the constant scrutiny of her in-laws, she puts what she has to use, crafting a plan for an escape that will require the utmost sacrifice and bravery.
Adah’s plight made me so grateful for everything I have and for all the progress women have made. Yes, there is still struggle, but what Adah showed me is that with grit and determination, we can do so much with very little.
About the Author
Ann Howard Creel writes historical novels about strong female characters facing seemingly impossible obstacles and having to make life-changing decisions. In her new novel, THE RIVER WIDOW, a former tarot-card reader turned widow and stepmother must escape the clutches of an evil family while also facing the crime she herself has committed. In THE WHISKEY SEA, a fierce young woman becomes one of the only female rumrunners on the Atlantic Coast during Prohibition. And in WHILE YOU WERE MINE, a New York City nurse must give up the child she has raised as her own during World War II.
When asked where she gets her ideas, Ann answers, “From history.” She doesn’t know when the muse will strike, but often while reading about history, she sees an image in her mind. The spark for THE RIVER WIDOW came while learning about The Great Flood of 1937 along the Ohio River. Ann immediately saw a woman dragging her abusive husband’s body to the river to let floodwaters take it away. Rather strange, she knows.
In the works are new novels about an American horsewoman joining an all-female group of doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers during World War I and a tale of an American teacher needing an escape who inherits a Paris nightclub just as Europe is steadily marching toward war.
Besides writing, Ann's other interests include old houses, new yoga routines, red wine, and all things cat. For book clubs, Ann will visit you via Skype. Contact her through her website: www.annhowardcreel.com.