Reviewer Critiques Character-Driven Historical Novel

Reviewed by June J. McInerney

Silas Jacobson miscalculates a shot while duck hunting and accidentally kills his father. Riddled with remorse and overcome with guilt, he leaves his younger siblings, Caleb and Angelina, on the family farm and strikes out on his own, seeking solace and redemption on the Mississippi River. It is 1848, the heyday of two-wheeled paddled steamers, riverboat gambling, rambling cotton plantations, dishonest cutthroats, and back-stabbing slave traders—a perfect time of raucous revelry and adventure for the feisty, rebellious twenty-year-old. He throws himself into the frays, seeking salvation and recovery from self-reproach and past mistakes. In the process, he acquires a best friend, is betrayed by a lady gambler, and meets the love of his life, Hannah Granger, who saves his life then deceives him with her own mysterious past. Silas will do anything to win her heart—even gamble away his own conscience and integrity. The question is: Does he succeed?

The self-published, 369-page historical novel, Redemption on the River (August 2012) by Loren DeShon, is a story of salvation, deliverance, rescue, release, and liberation—and profound love. It is also a coming-of-age tale. As Silas travels up and down the muddy river on various paddlewheels and, then, eventually on the Granger’s packet, he comes to grips with what it means to be truly and fully mature, learning to accept ultimate responsibility for who he is and for his actions—past, present, and future.

This is an agreeably adventurous read, jam-packed with descriptive scenes set in saloons and on board ships; knife fights; lively and poignant, yet often humorous character descriptions, dialogue, and relations; as well as stark imagery that places the reader smack-dab in the center of the action. It took DeShon five years and twelve drafts to complete this thoughtfully constructed and well-written novel; and it shows. Not one piece of plotline, person, meaningful metaphor or image is out of place in this tightly bound, vivid, thoroughly accurate and integrated assemblage of mid-eighteenth century life and times. There is even a detailed glossary of historical references; a boon to the more curious reader that differentiates facts from DeShon’s imaginative flights of fancy.

Best read by young adults and older audiences, Redemption on the River is a satisfying read on many levels, offering a simple historical adventure with a true-to-life hero, a fictionalized account of real life in the pre-bellum South on the Mississippi, as well as a straightforward psychological insight into an endearing young man’s development into responsible adulthood.

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About Traci

Traci is the founder of Author Exposure and person behind the Confessions of a Book Addict series (#litconfessions). Using her talents as both a project manager and certified author assistant, she launched Protagonist PMO in 2015 to offer personalized project management services to entrepreneurs, with a specialization in navigating authors through the publishing and marketing processes.

January 9, 2013     Traci     book review, June J. McInerney, Loren DeShon, Redemption on the River

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