River Boy

River Boy

3.71 (1,050 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Paperback
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Jess and her parents take her grandfather back to his childhood home so that he can finish his last painting "River Boy". While out swimming, Jess meets a boy who challenges her to swim down the river to the sea. Then she discovers that this was one of her grandfather's childhood ambitions.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 141 pages
  • 130 x 210mm | 210g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0192717561
  • 9780192717566

Review Text

Jess's grandfather, a noted painter, has suffered a heart attack. Grandpa insists his family carry on with plans to take him to his remote childhood home, obsessed as he is with finishing a painting titled "River Boy" in which there seems to be no "boy." Arriving at their vacation rental on the river, Jess begins to feel the presence of, and soon sees, a mysterious boy she calls the River Boy. Says the enigmatic young man, "If your grandpa died fulfilled, would you bear his loss better?" He then advises Jess to help finish the painting by being Grandpa's hands. The River Boy himself needs Jess's help. He wants to swim the river from source to sea and, fearful of swimming alone, wants Jess to swim with him. As the River Boy materializes from mere presence to actual boy, Grandfather fades. Then, the painting finished, he dies. The journey to the sea completed, the River Boy also vanishes at the moment of Grandpa's death. While the writing is quietly poetic, the theme universal, and the metaphor of the river that flows from source to sea apt (if not entirely fresh), the story does not compel. Thoughtful readers will easily predict that the elusive boy is Grandpa and that the death will be timed to coincide with the boy reaching the sea. Readers who do not, though, may tire of the repetitious family dithering over an old man who is tyrannical, emotionally remote, and self-absorbed. Sadly, his decline makes for reading more painful than engrossing. (1998 Carnegie Medal) (Fiction. 11-13) (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

1,050 ratings
3.71 out of 5 stars
5 27% (282)
4 32% (336)
3 30% (311)
2 8% (89)
1 3% (32)
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