Fifteen-year-old Jess’s grandfather has just had a major heart attack, but he insists he finish his painting, “River Boy.”
At first, Jess cannot understand why this painting is so important to her grandfather, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any boy in it at all. But while swimming in the river herself, Jess begins to feel the presence of a strange boy.
Could this be the same one her ailing grandfather struggles to paint? And if so, why has he returned?
“It didn’t start with the river boy.”
I first came across Tim Bowler, last year when I read Starseeker in December. last year, and I enjoyed it so much, I quickly snatched up some more of his books on Bookmooch. The first of which to arrive was this one, River Boy.
Jess’s beloved grandfather has just had a serious heart attack, but he insists that the family travel as planned to his boyhood home on the river so that he can finish his painting, River Boy. As Jess helps her ailing grandpa with his work, she becomes entranced by the scene he is painting. Then she becomes aware of a strange presence in the river — a boy who asks for her help and issues a challenge that will stretch her swimming talents to their very limit. Jess knows that Grandpa and the river boy are connected, but how? Can she take up the river boy’s challenge before it’s too late for Grandpa?
Following Jess, as her family take one last holiday with her beloved grandfather, to his childhood home. Gravely ill following a recent heart attack, all her grandfather wants to do is complete his final paining, the River Boy.
At first along with the rest of her family, they can not understand his refusal to let go, his ailing health causes him nothing but pain and frustration.
And then Jess starts to ‘feel’ a presence in their remote location, especially down by the river. She eventually meets a boy in the river, the River Boy. The boy asks for her help and issues a challenge that will stretch her swimming talents to their very limit. Jess knows that her Grandfather and the river boy are connected, but how? Can she take up the river boy’s challenge before it’s too late for her Grandfather?
She didn’t know how fast the current was moving her. It could take many more hours yet, perhaps more hours than she had the strength for. But she must not stop. She must keep going. She must try to catch the river boy, even though she was frightened at the thought of what he was.
Bowler, use of the river as a metaphor for the journey of life, is a fantastic device, and makes for a really moving final few pages.
It is a short book, but Bowler does a good job of making you like Jess and her family in the early part of the book, necessary for the emotional ending to work, and yes I enjoyed it and the ending is great, but for me some of the magic of Starseeker just wasn’t there for me.