Hi friends! I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to read Ann H. Gabhart’s newest novel. Revell Reads sent me a copy of In the Shadow of the River, a story about a young woman living, of all places, on a steamboat. Here’s more about the book, plus my thoughts about it.
About In the Shadow of the River
Jacci Reed grew up on a steamboat from as early as she could remember. But one night, her mother grabs her out of bed, and tries to whisk her away…only to be met by someone who means them great harm. At great expense to herself, Jacci’s mother, Irena, escapes with her daughter onto another steamboat. On this one, Irena’s actor father takes them in. He’s the Duke, a leading actor on the boat’s performances.
Later, as a young woman, Jacci has joined her grandfather, and others, in the musical theater and vaudeville that the steamboat offers visitors. Every night, they dress up to sing, dance, and perform comedy and just a little drama. Jacci loves performing; perhaps more than that, she loves the gently rolling river that brings her to a new location each and every day. But a day is coming that may put her face to face with an enemy she doesn’t even know she has. And her very life may be in danger.
My thoughts about In the Shadow of the River
I’m always happy to run across an Ann H. Gabhart book. Several of her novels (Angel Sister, Scent of Lilacs, Along a Storied Trail) are books I’ll never forget, with characters I adored. I’ve always enjoyed the ways Gabhart takes unusual settings (Shaker communities in the 1800s, a southern town and its preacher’s family, Kentucky in the Depression years) and creates stories and people that are truly unforgettable. In her newest, In the Shadow of the River, she brings readers into the close-as-family ties of a troupe of steamboat performers, who’ve been together for years and years. (Except for the new performers hired here and there.)
We get to meet Jacci as a little girl of almost-six, in 1881. When an attempted kidnapping changes her home (and her mother’s) from a steamboat to a showboat (that’s also a steamboat), Jacci meets the grandfather she never knew she had. As her mother attempts to survive the attack, Jacci gains several new “aunts” in addition to her grandfather Duke. And she begins to settle into her new home, despite a deep sadness.
When we see Jacci again, she’s a young woman, grown and performing alongside her traveling showboat family. She is beautiful and doesn’t resemble her mother at all. She isn’t aware that that is really a dangerous thing, hiding a dangerous secret. Oh, and there’s Gabe; the son of the boat’s captain and Jacci’s “aunt” Marelda; who’s been reminding her since she was 5 that he was *not* her brother.
I loved this new world that Gabhart created. I’ve actually been on a steamboat (clearly, not in 1896), but never thought of the lives of the performers who’d have traveled on the showboats in their heyday. Jacci and her “family” are an incredible and fascinating group. There’s Jacci, who’s lovely but quite able to set good boundaries. Aunt Tildy, who’s an amazing cook and prayer warrier. Grandfather Duke, who’s never been much on parenting until his granddaughter entered his life. And mother Irena, who’s fierce in her protection of her daughter. And Gabe, Jacci’s “not-brother,” who’d do anything for her.
Once again, Ann H. Gabhart has created an unusual group of individuals living a *very* unusual life. And the secrets which are endangering Jacci’s life are believable and frightening. Here’s a wonderful book, with some sweet references to faith, for fans of historical fiction.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions shared here are my own.