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The Names of Rivers by Daniel Buckman

The Names of Rivers

by Daniel Buckman

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312314604, Paperback)

With honesty and depth, Daniel Buckman creates a memorable account of trauma and loss with The Names of Rivers. Buckman's novel focuses on the Konicks, a broken family in a poor Illinois town whose nature and experience seem to lead them hopelessly toward misfortune. Patriarch Bruno Konick, an expert in obsolete crafts, lives a meager, largely isolated life, haunted by the horrors he witnessed as a soldier during World War II. His emotional distance and anger alienated him from his sons, who nonetheless followed him into military service and returned from the Vietnam War with similar psychological damage. Elder son Bruce, a violent alcoholic with a gruesome facial scar, harasses the townspeople and steals from his father. Memories of wartime atrocities, a long-standing heroin addiction, Bruce's childhood sexual assaults, and his father's neglect have left younger son Len a weakened shell of a man. Bruce's abandoned son, Luke, possesses an intelligence that offers him a possible escape from this familial cycle, but it's at odds with the aimlessness and resentment he inherited from his father and the limited options around him.

Though troubling in its subject matter, Buckman's perceptive yet restrained characterizations offer The Names of Rivers resonance and poignancy. Brutally precise yet compassionate descriptions help convey the helplessness and regret of this gallery of displaced, lonely characters, lending the book's hard lessons a sense of disquieting accuracy. A persistently sad novel, The Names of Rivers rewards readers with the kind of wisdom gained from such a painful journey. --Ross Doll

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:13 -0400)

"The Names of Rivers is a tightly crafted search for redemption and forgiveness within the shadows of a family's past. Set in a 1980s rustbelt town south of Chicago, the novel tells the story of Bruno Konick, an aged veteran of "the good war" who has spent a lifetime haunted by his own actions during the liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp; and his grandson Luke, a teenage boy forever dreaming of heroism in a post-Vietnam America. Together, they watch Luke's father, Bruce, an unemployed factory worker badly disfigured during the siege of Khe Sanh, wander toward his suicidal end in a cornfield ruined by a freakish ice storm. When Bruno's youngest son Len unexpectedly returns home, recovered from the heroin addiction he learned as a hospital corpsman in Saigon, he brings with him an old wound that Bruno Konick can never let himself touch."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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