It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land.
Following years of catastrophic hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—stretching from the Florida panhandle to the western Louisiana border—has been brought to its knees. The region is so punished and depleted that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules.
Cohen is one who stayed. Unable to overcome the crushing loss of his wife and unborn child who were killed during an evacuation, he returned home to Mississippi to bury them on family land. Until now he hasn’t had the strength to leave them behind, even to save himself.
But after his home is ransacked and all of his carefully accumulated supplies stolen, Cohen is finally forced from his shelter. On the road north, he encounters a colony of survivors led by a fanatical, snake-handling preacher named Aggie who has dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region.
Realizing what’s in store for the women Aggie is holding against their will, Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman’s captives across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down—and Cohen harboring a secret that may pose the greatest threat of all.
Eerily prophetic in its depiction of a southern landscape ravaged by extreme weather, Rivers is a masterful tale of survival and redemption in a world where the next devastating storm is never far behind.
As a Mississippi native, award-winning short story writer and first-time novelist Smith makes good use of his home state’s milieu in this powerfully written apocalyptic tale about an unending southern storm. Smith imagines the devastation the Gulf Coast might experience if Hurricane Katrina marked the beginning of a continuous deluge of rain and wind, forcing the government to establish the Line, which isolates the South in flooding and lawlessness. Still haunted by the death of his wife and unborn child, a man named Cohen chooses to stay below the Line, where he avoids the chaos and ekes out a living in his unfinished house. Then a pair of teens ambush and nearly kill him, stealing his Jeep and ransacking his belongings. Left homeless, Cohen finds his way to a ramshackle trailer park controlled by a messianic figure named Aggie, from whose clutches Cohen frees the teens and several women for a perilous dash to safety above the Line. While Rivers is already inviting inevitable comparisons to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), Smith’s canvas is broader and the story even more riveting. – Carl Hays
“Smith’s vision of a post-apocalyptic society left behind by civilization is expertly executed. This world is chilling—all the more so for its believability—and it is peopled by compelling, fully realized characters, some of whom only exist in the form of ghosts. In contrast to this bleak world, Smith’s prose is lush, descriptive and even beautiful. A compelling plot, fuelled by a mounting sense of tension and hope in the face of increasing hopelessness, will keep readers engrossed to the very end.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
Product Details File Size: 1730 KB Print Length: 353 pages Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1451699425 Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 10, 2013) Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc Language: English ASIN: B00A28I84K