River Way Home, by Jason Wellnitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: A boy, Halkeno, waits in a small orphanage in Beira, Mozambique for someone to find him. A successful Iowa businessman realizes there's a space in his life and goes off searching to fill it. Amazingly, the boy and the man meet and life is very happy for a time. But they never see the tragedy moving toward them and suddenly Halkeno is on his own again. This story of fathers and sons spans four generations and three continents. It answers the question, "when we lose our fathers, do we ever find them again?" and shows that true love lives forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In the mid-1970s, Jason Wellnitz was born into a loving family of five in Waterloo, Iowa. He graduated from East Waterloo High School and went to the University of Oklahoma on a full-ride National Merit Scholarship. He graduated from OU at the height of the dot-com boom and set out for Seattle to try his luck. His first business venture fell apart after a year and he moved back to Iowa to try a few more start-ups with slightly better success. Having met the love of his life, Emily, near the end of college, they married a few years later and moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to begin a family. Over the next few years their three children were born and became the joy at the center of Jason's world. During this period Jason managed a team of systems engineers at a Fortune 500 company, building avionics for business jets and writing on the side. In 2011 he traveled to Mozambique to work with Food For The Hungry. His first novel is River Way Home.
MY THOUGHTS: Told in the voice and style of an African folk legend, the words float through the air like a tale told 'round the bonfire. This story is a family history passed from father to son, recounting the more recent generations that brought them to the present. No pages are wasted on superfluous babble, but in true man-to-man form, the father gives just the right amount of detail to his child about each family member mentioned.
Like looking down from an airplane on the curves of a mighty river, the stories in retrospect are able to be pieced together to see the flow of the bigger picture. And isn't that what everyone has wondered? How did I get here? What forces came together to shape what I know as my life?
This was a quick read, one I couldn't put down until I'd finished. The crazy twists and turns of each creek and stream that flowed into the river of this child's life were too good to pause, and I was taken by surprise more than once.
In looking back (and re-reading the first chapter), I see that the author sprinkled clues to the ending throughout the book, but I was still caught totally off guard by the ending. And I've been thinking and rethinking about the book since. Well done, Mr. Wellnitz!
PARENTAL RATING: PG-13. There are a few violent scenes, and a lot of intense drama. I will offer this to my teen girls with the explanation that the tragedy is graphic.
**I was provided a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.