Title: Into This River I Drown
Author: TJ Klune
Narrator: Matt Baca
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 18 hours and 49 minutes
Category: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery
At a Glance: As amazed as I was by the story, I was equally in awe of the narration. Matt Baca was FANTASTIC.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Five years ago, Benji Green lost his beloved father, Big Eddie, when his truck crashed into a river. Everyone called it an accident, but Benji knows it was more. Even years later, he’s buried in his grief, throwing himself into managing Big Eddie’s convenience store in the small-town of Roseland, Oregon. Surrounded by his mother and three aunts, he lives day to day, struggling to keep his head above water.
But Roseland is no ordinary place.
With ever more frequent dreams of his father’s death and waking visions of feathers on the river’s surface, Benji finds his definition of reality bending. He thinks himself haunted; by ghosts or memories, he can no longer tell. Not until a man falls from the sky, leaving the burning imprint of wings on the ground, does Benji begin to understand that the world is more mysterious than he ever imagined—and more dangerous. As uncontrollable forces descend on Roseland, they reveal long-hidden truths about friends, family, and the stranger Calliel—a man Benji can no longer live without.
Review: It is going to be extremely difficult to put into words how amazed I was by this story. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect going in. Based on the blurb, I knew that it was going to be on the darker side—darker than other books I’ve read by Klune—and that it had a paranormal aspect. I didn’t know that it was going to be romance, mystery, suspense, and paranormal all rolled into one. Or, that it would be so incredibly gorgeous. Into This River I Drown was everything I hoped it would be and then some. Which shouldn’t be surprising at all given that it’s a TJ Klune novel, and that it won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance in 2014.
Benji is not in a great place when we meet him. Consumed by grief for the past five years after losing his dad, we can see that he’s not really living but merely existing. He tried a short stint at college—because his mother made him go—but otherwise is content just running his dad’s convenience store, and getting by. Benji is unable to let go of his belief that Big Eddie’s accident was not an accident at all, but instead was some type of foul play. He goes through the daily motions of running the store and keeping up appearances for the sake of his mom and aunts, but he can’t stop obsessing over the police reports and photos, or from going to mile marker seventy-seven, where his father’s truck went into the river.
I can honestly say, without a doubt, that I have never read a book where the love between a father and a son was more beautifully portrayed, or that both filled and broke my heart so readily. The scenes between Benji and his father were written as memories, obviously, but they were some of the most real and vibrant moments in the book. Big Eddie was, according to Benji, “the greatest man who ever lived.” And, going by the way Klune wrote him, I’d have to say I agree. I mean, he says stuff like this to his son. All the time.
“Because there is no one such as you in the world, and you belong to me, I’ll believe in you always because you are my son. You are going to be strong and brave, and one day, you’re going to be a great man and you will stand for what you believe in. I have faith that you will stand and be true.”
And, Benji’s love for his dad was so pure and touching. Benji would have done anything for his father. Including doing whatever he had to do to get to the bottom of what really happened the day Big Eddie died.
I also can’t say enough about Calliel, or Cal, as Benji calls him. I don’t want to go into any detail about where Cal came from, or how he came to be in Roseland, for fear of spoiling the story for anyone who hasn’t read it—but Cal was probably my favorite character in the book. He was such a bright light, and so needed, both by Benji and the townspeople of Roseland. I loved, loved, loved, Calliel.
I mentioned that this book was a romance, a mystery/suspense novel, and a paranormal story all rolled into one. Every piece is beautifully written and masterfully woven together. The romance was like none that I’ve read before; the mystery was terrifying and heart-pounding at times, and had an unbelievable twist, but it was the paranormal element that had me in awe for the entirety of the book. It was imaginative, thought-provoking, and gutsy. I loved every bit of it.
All the characters were remarkable, some for their good traits and some for the bad, but the river was really the star of the story. The Umpqua river, the place where Big Eddie drowned, keeps drawing Benji back to its banks—typically in his dreams—over and over again. The question is, will Benji succumb to his overwhelming grief and let the river carry him away?
As amazed as I was by the story, I was equally in awe of the narration. Matt Baca was FANTASTIC. I’m sad that he no longer appears to be doing audiobooks, because his talent is undeniable. His voice characterizations and his performance were spot-on. I loved the way he did the inner monologue bits. And, he even sang! It was such a kickass performance. I would listen to this audio again; it was so, so good.
You can buy Into This River I Drown here: