Set in a small town on a river in New Brunswick, River of the Brokenhearted, David Adams Richards's first novel since his Giller Prize-winning Mercy Among the Children, is told by Wendell King, son of Miles King and grandson of the feisty, willful Janie McLeary King, who made her fortune running the town's first cinema. Set against this trio is the lower-class family of the Drukens, especially Rebecca Druken and her uncle, Joey Elias, bitter because their own early cinema failed. Established early on, the feud plays out across three generations, spanning successes, failures, murder, and dissolution. Yet despite the somewhat bleak subject matter, tremendous humour and vitality persist in this story. The characters leap off the page, and in the person of Miles King, Richards has imagined a fully human soul of stunning believability. Miles is fatally flawed, committing slow suicide by gin as his cinema too begins to fail in the face of the TV's small screen. A sensitive eccentric, a target of small-town narrowness, he is subtly tortured psychically, for years, by Elias and the vicious Rebecca, who have made the downfall of the Kings their life's ambition. Miles King is a character of great loneliness, pathos, humor, and compassion, one of the finest creations not only of Canadian writing but any literature.
River of the Brokenhearted is the story of a river, the Miramichi, but it is mostly about the river of time that passes through Miles King, his mother, his son, and their enemies, carrying all to their ultimate fates: "She had left a river in New Brunswick that would swallow you with its life, shout in its rapids, laugh in its eddies, create industry in its currents, a river of Irish and Scottish myth, wedded to the soil." An outstanding work of fiction. --Mark Frutkin [via]