River Bend, Michigan, is the kind of small town most can't imagine leaving, but three women couldn't wait to escape. When Linda, Paula, and Beth return, their paths collide under Beth's father's roof. As one town struggles to contain all of their love affairs and secrets, a local scandal forces Beth to confront her own devastating past.
Just like life, McFarland’s debut is big, messy, and complicated while also being a completely engrossing portrait of her characters and their hometown. She deftly weaves in issues of race and consent. Perfect for those who like books about family dysfunction, this would also make a great book discussion selection.
All three women share complex feelings about their hometown and its inhabitants, most of which are handled with realistic nuance. McFarland’s layered tale will appeal to readers who liked Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage.
No reader would expect these scenarios to end well, but McFarland knows her way through the murk. Angry women mud-fight in a public pigsty, and the Williams clan navigates a surprisingly recuperative farmhouse Christmas, scrolled out in one long tracking shot. Some of the writing is expository and belabored, but the flood hinted at in the title arrives and delivers. So, in the end, does the story. A matriarchal tale asks who can thrive in small-town America.