One of our recommended books is The River Home by Hannah Richell

THE RIVER HOME

A Novel


From beloved international bestselling author Hannah Richell comes a spellbinding novel about the secrets brought to the surface when a large family gathers for a wedding.

Can the damage of the past ever be healed?

In their ramshackle Somerset home, with its lush gardens running down to the river, the Sorrells have gathered for a last-minute wedding—an occasion that is met with trepidation by each member of the family.

Lucy, the bride, has begged her loved ones to attend—not telling them that she has some important news to share once they’ve gathered.

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From beloved international bestselling author Hannah Richell comes a spellbinding novel about the secrets brought to the surface when a large family gathers for a wedding.

Can the damage of the past ever be healed?

In their ramshackle Somerset home, with its lush gardens running down to the river, the Sorrells have gathered for a last-minute wedding—an occasion that is met with trepidation by each member of the family.

Lucy, the bride, has begged her loved ones to attend—not telling them that she has some important news to share once they’ve gathered. Her prodigal baby sister, Margot, who left home after a devastating argument with their mother, reluctantly agrees, though their family home is the site of so much pain for her. Meanwhile, their eldest sister, Eve, has thrown herself into a tailspin planning the details of the wedding—anything to distract herself from how her own life is unraveling—and their long-separated artist parents are forced to play the roles of cheerful hosts through gritted teeth. As the Sorrells come together for a week of celebration and confrontation, their painful memories are revisited and their relationships stretched to the breaking point.

Moving, poignant, and unforgettable, The River Home showcases once again Hannah Richell’s talent for creating characters readers can relate to—and telling stories that linger in the mind long after the final page.

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  • Harper Paperbacks
  • Paperback
  • August 2020
  • 368 Pages
  • 9780063001602

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$16.99

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About Hannah Richell

Hannah Richell is the author of The River HomeHannah Richell is a dual citizen of Great Britain and Australia, and lives in the South West of England with her family. She is the author of Secrets of the Tides (published in the US as The House of Tides), The Shadow Year, and The Peacock Summer. Her books have been translated into seventeen languages.

Praise

“This character-driven tale flows effortlessly with the author’s descriptive prose painting every emotional scene with care. Her skill at peeling away the layers of and revealing the raw pain in this incredibly complicated family is exemplary and extremely important to the narrative….Fans of Karen White, Kristin Hannah, Barbara Delinsky, and fantastic women’s fiction will have difficulty putting down this novel.” Library Journal (starred review)

“Beautiful, heart-rending, life-affirming.” – Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and After the End

“No one does dark family secrets like Hannah Richell . . . Beguiling, beautifully written and richly evocative, The River Home will sweep you away.” – Veronica Henry, author of How to Find Love in a Bookshop

“Beautifully written, with powerful messages of hope and redemption woven through the sadness of the story. Very moving, very immersive. I loved it!” – Katherine Webb, author of The Legacy

“A tender portrait of a perfectly imperfect family; wise, big-hearted, and beautifully written.” Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers

“Beautiful and gripping.” – Libby Page, author of The Lido

“A brimming glassful of apple-scented summer escapism.” Kirkus Reviews

“Stunning . . . Amazing characters, beautiful setting, and utterly heart-breaking.” — Katherine Slee, author of The Book of Second Chances

“Heartwrenching and beautifully written.” — Susan Elliot Wright, author of The Secrets We Left Behind

Discussion Questions

1. What does the name of the Sorrell family home, “Windfalls,” mean to you? Is there any irony in a house whose name is associated with luck bringing the opposite to some of its inhabitants?

2. Is Margot’s and Kit’s anger at each other justified? In what situations, if any, do you think a family estrangement is justified? What, if anything, is unforgivable?

3. To what extent does the Sorrell sisters’ birth order determine their personalities and relationships with their parents, do you think? Do you think it’s true that siblings can grow up in different families?

4. How much of the tension between Ted and Kit is caused by their careers and ambitions, and the differences within their work? Do you think their relationship might have been different if Kit had found an alternative career path?

5. Do you believe love rivals, such as Kit and Sibella, can ever become friends?

6. Do you know anyone like Eve, who focuses on the details in order to avoid the big picture?

7. Do you agree that creating art requires discomfort? What do you make of Ted’s supposition that he might be too happy to write?

8. Do you think it’s ever possible for a person to completely bury hurts and secrets from their past and remain unscathed?What do you think the author is trying to say about living with emotional pain?

9. Was it fair of Lucy to withhold her news until the night before the wedding?

10. What does the river of the title mean to you? What does the river mean to the different characters in the novel? What symbolic value does a river have? And how does the author use water as a recurring motif throughout the novel?

11. What do you think is the significance of Margot’s rose quartz stone find at the end of the novel?

12. How did your feelings for the characters shift from beginning to end as you read The River Home? Did you find the ending satisfying? If not, how else might the author have concluded the story?

Essay

The Inspiration Behind The River Home

Where does your inspiration come from? I think this might be the question I am asked most as a writer, though strangely, it’s also the question I find hardest to answer.

A novel begins with a few loose threads—a glimmer of an idea—a smattering of thoughts. By the time it is complete, however, a writer will have woven a fabric of many lives, settings, layers and stories into a bigger whole. What might have started as a simple, nostalgic recollection from childhood,or an observation of a group of strangers, an overheard fragment, a whispered secret or a news story that grabs hold and refuses to let go, can soon spiral into sprawling and surprising new territory. Things rarely unfold in the exact way you imagine when you first tackle the blank page. Characters have an uncanny ability to take on a life of their own and mess with the most meticulous of plots. A narrative can veer off course, or sprout new and intriguing limbs. By the time a novel is published, remembering what those initial early threads and ideas once were can be a difficult, forensic process.

Casting back, I remember The River Home began with the desire to write something life-affirming and uplifting. I realise that this might seem a little strange to some readers who have reached the end of the novel and travelled through the various traumas and tragedies that the Sorrells experience, but my intention was to write about a loving, dysfunctional family reuniting for a big, joyful wedding. I had been through my own personal sadness after the sudden death of my husband in 2014, and after a long, deep period of mourning, I felt ready to focus on the joys of living. What could be more uplifting than writing about a family reuniting for a celebration of love?

A compelling story, however, needs tension. Where is the drama in everyone getting along and having a wonderful, happy time? Of course weddings, with all their high emotion can be pressured events; and not every family delights in the idea of reunion, but I started to think about writing a novel where the wedding wasn’t just a ‘normal’ wedding? What if there was another, more urgent reason for it to take place?

I realised, as I thought more about the Sorrells and their reunion, that there were things I had learned through my own process of grieving that I wanted to write about. There were things that I had learned about learning to live with loss and pain that I wanted to explore.

It was this thought that started me thinking about Lucy and her journey and that pulled me into the darker chapters of the novel with Kit and Margot. Families are complicated, ever-shifting, emotional structures.As human beings, we all feel love and joy, but we will also most likely face loss and pain at some point in our lives. Some of us will face sickness. Some of us tragedy. Some of us betrayal and loss. I realized, as I plotted and planned,that what I most wanted to show through my characters was that how in learning to live with the most painful chapters of our lives, while challenging, can often help to illuminate and enhance the more beautiful ones too. To bury pain, only seems to make it fester and deepen.

It seemed increasingly right to offset the more painful revelations in the novel with a big, beautiful (if slightly chaotic) wedding because these are characters who, while facing pain and sadness, fundamentally are tied by deep bonds of love. In juxtaposing the light and the dark against each other, I hoped the love would shine a little brighter, the connections feel a little deeper.

Sense of place will always be important in my writing. I love to read novels where the location often feels as much as a character of the story as the people moving through it. The riverside house that the family inhabits, its grounds and surroundings, while fun to conjure, was an important device to pull everyone back for the gathering. I liked the idea of Ted and Kit stumbling upon the old farmhouse with all their hopes and dreams intact, and taking the reader on a sprawling family journey through its dusty corners and shifting landscapes.

The idea of “home”became increasingly important as the narrative unfolded. How a place can nurture or betray its inhabitants began to preoccupy me. No matter how far the Sorrell family tries to run or hide from the pain in their past, they are each drawn back to the river and the home that once sustained them.

Windfalls and the village of Mortford that it sits within are fictional places, but they are inspired by areas I know and love well in rural Somerset. I find that the plots of my novels are often informed by the landscape. This proved to be no exception in The River Home. These days, I live close to the River Avon, and walking its paths in all seasons certainly helped to shape and inspire the novel. As I wrote, the river gradually unfurled through the novel like a ribbon, tying the characters and their actions together. It became a central motif, both physically and metaphorically. It came to clearly represent different things to the different characters: inspiration, joy, freedom, pain and shame, but ultimately, the river came to reinforce a central message: that no matter what we face in life, life goes on, a constant,relentless flow that we must learn to embrace.

Since finishing The River Home, I continue to learn and think on these lessons. Recent events, both personal and on a wider global scale, have made me reel at times with the uncertainty of what will unfold next. I have been reminded, once again, of that undeniable truth I learned in difficult times: that life carries with it pain and sadness and that it is only in the acceptance of this fact that we can learn to carry the weight of it. It is in the acceptance that we can truly appreciate the beautiful and more uplifting moments of our days –the ones that give meaning to the fabric of our lives and make us feel most present and alive, that can bring us to those moments of sheer joy and affirmation. . . like two little girls skipping down a pavement together singing. . . or Lucy, floating on the surface of her beloved river sighing to herself, “Here I am … Here I am.”

Hannah Richell

June 2020