Having studied slavery and emancipation in the USA as part of my first degree, I was only too pleased to be offered the opportunity to read River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer and would like to thank Caitlin Raynor for sending me a copy of the back in August 2022 and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. I’m delighted to help close the tour by sharing my review today.
River Sing Me Home was published by Headline Review on 19th January and is available for purchase in all good bookshops and online including here.
River Sing Me Home
We whisper the names of the ones we love like the words of a song. That was the taste of freedom to us, those names on our lips.
Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy.
These are the names of her children. The five who survived, only to be sold to other plantations. The faces Rachel cannot forget.
It’s 1834, and the law says her people are now free. But for Rachel freedom means finding her children, even if the truth is more than she can bear.
With fear snapping at her heels, Rachel keeps moving. From sunrise to sunset, through the cane fields of Barbados to the forests of British Guiana and on to Trinidad, to the dangerous river and the open sea.
Only once she knows their stories can she rest. Only then can she finally find home.
Inspired by the women who, in the aftermath of slavery, went in search of their lost children.
My Review of River Sing Me Home
Rachel searches for her children.
River Sing Me Home is almost impossible to review because Eleanor Shearer explores the very roots of who we are in a narrative that transcends history and time, becoming a melody of life, loss and love in a way that leaves the reader stunned by her skill.
The writing is beautiful, presenting Rachel’s voice with pin sharp clarity against a searing backdrop of man’s inhumanity to man and the power of nature to nurture or destroy. The direct speech, the natural images, the sense of place and history, blend into a story that mesmerises completely. I thought the iterative image of water as a means of escape, of healing, of ripples through time, and of rebirth was inspired. What I found so affecting was how resilient the human spirit can be. Through memories, stories and song Rachel’s journey is steeped in difficulty and challenge, but simultaneously illustrates hope and love so affectingly that it is impossible not to live the events alongside her.
The journey Rachel undertakes is literal and metaphorical. The greater the physical distance Rachel travels, the more she, and the reader, comes to understand her place in the world and how her role as a mother is both universal and unique. Her development as a character is so movingly depicted in this intense and powerful story. I loved meeting the other characters too, but I don’t want to say too much as I feel it will spoil the story for others. The most emotional aspect for me, illustrated by Rachel and her children, was the gradual understanding that home is not a place necessarily, but can be a person like Nobody, or simply a feeling or emotion. There are sensitive and insightful messages in River Sing Me Home.
There’s wisdom and joy, despair and grief so intimately intertwined that River Sing Me Home feels timeless, important and healing. Rachel’s story is the story of many mothers, of many slaves, of humanity itself. I found it profoundly moving, affecting and emotional. It is not a story to be forgotten easily. I am aware my review is rather opaque but I’m struggling to articulate the feelings reading about Rachel gave me. Let me just say that I thought River Sing Me Home was absolutely wonderful.
About Eleanor Shearer
ELEANOR SHEARER is a mixed-race writer and the granddaughter of Windrush generation immigrants. She splits her time between London and Ramsgate so that she never has to go too long without seeing the sea. For her Master’s degree in Politics at the University of Oxford, Eleanor studied the legacy of slavery and the case for reparations, and her fieldwork in St. Lucia and Barbados helped inspire her first novel.
For further information, follow Eleanor on Twitter @eleanorbshearer, or find her on Instagram.
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