Author: Hannah Richell
Publisher: Hachette
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher via NetGalley

The River Home is the fourth book by Hannah Richell and as soon as I saw it was releasing I knew that I wanted to read it. All of her novels have been an emotional journey and this one is no different.

Fractured families, long held secrets and a vein of suspense that I kept thinking I had a handle on, but it was so much more than I ever could have imagined, make for an emotionally engaging read that will not leave you untouched.

Margot Sorrell has been running from her past all of her adult life; in the move away from her family and childhood home and her refuge in a vodka bottle. She avoids returning home where she can but the summons for a last minute wedding is not one that you can ignore, especially followed up with a text from her sister that reads ‘I Need You’.

There is an absolute wealth of baggage being carried by this family, it’s a surprise they function as well as they do to be honest, but for all of their history there is also a lot of love.

Margot is the youngest of three sisters, the enigmatic and elusive one with one monumental mistake in her past that no-one can understand, or move past. Lucy is the impulsive and free-spirited middle child getting married on a week’s notice and Eve is the level-headed eldest who has always taken it upon herself to be responsible for everyone.

Richell explores the day to day minutiae of family life for a working wife and mother of two and I found Eve to be relatable though some of her decisions were certainly not ones I would have made. Her plate is full to overflowing with extracurricular responsibilities and parts of her life are starting to suffer, this is something I’m sure many women are going to be able to relate to.

The girls grew up in a rambling old home alongside the river in a far from average family dynamic. Their father was a promising playwright who has found the words to be stilted and the inspiration a struggle to find. Their mother, on the other hand, is the bestselling K.T. Weaver, author of a racy fantasy series that is secretively passed around between the teenage girls at school. It seems that as Kit’s career has taken off her husbands star has waned and the girls are often left out in the cold at the hands of Kit’s muse as she forgets events and closets herself away in the old apple store on the river that Ted transformed into a studio for her when she was struggling to find herself in the early days after Eve’s birth.

Kit and Ted have separated, Margot is living her life far from the family home, Eve is caught up in the neverending demands of family life and Lucy decides she needs to bring them all back together for her whirlwind wedding, hoping that somehow they can start mending the rifts that threaten to always keep them apart.

Richell helps us navigate the tricky terrain that is this family’s dynamic while slowly feeding us flashbacks to how this came to be.

Margot was a tough character to crack, from the beginning you could tell that there was something there behind her distance, behind the event that came between her and Kit. I knew it was something big and the further we got into the story the more I started to think about what it could have been. I had an idea, and it turns out that I wasn’t wrong…. but I also only scratched the surface of what was locked up behind her walls.

Richell handled that whole story arc with great sensitivity and wove the suspense to perfection. I enjoyed the way it all became clear but it was certainly not easy to read and is sure to trigger some people. I am not going to say any more about that because we are encroaching on spoilers and I don’t want to do that.

The only issue that I have with this book is the ending. Personally, I would have loved a little more because the story just stopped; leaving me wanting to know how the next few hours played out. At the same time, it makes perfect sense to end that way because it leaves the reader to take the characters where they think it will go to next.

The truth shall set you free, and only then can the healing begin. The River Home explores secrets, the walls we build to protect ourselves, the pain of loss and the way that we all handle that in our own private ways but at the end of the day you need to have those you love around you to support you through that process.

I loved these characters, though some of them I didn’t always like very much, and I love the journey they all took through the pages. Margot was definitely my favourite character and I would really like to know what happens for her next but if I have to imagine it I think I’ll give her a happy ending.

Hannah Richell writes pain and grief with heart, sensitivity and honesty and I am confident that her books are always going to be emotional reads that will leave you changed. She definitely gets better with every book.

The River Home is book #7 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2020.

Hannah Richell can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and her Website.