The River Twice, by the Giller-nominated author of the bestselling The Island Walkers, is a gripping new World War I novel set in the Southern Ontario factory town familiar to his many readers, where residents are reeling as the wounded return and the list of local young men who have been killed continues to grow.
Wounded in body and spirit, Ted Whitfield returns home from the trenches to his wife, Miriam, who finds him deeply altered and virtually unreachable. Her sister, Grace, afflicted by her own secret trauma, falls into an immediate and electric affinity with Ted, and soon he is telling her—and only her—a story from the front lines that’s as shocking as it is extraordinary. As the novel moves back and forth between the lush, rolling landscape of southern Ontario and the devastated French countryside where exhausted Canadian troops are entrenched, the three characters at the centre of the narrative become entwined in almost unbearable tension.
Miriam and Grace’s nine-year-old brother Will, a thoughtful quiet boy who often sees the adults more clearly than they see themselves, is at the moral centre of the story. Each of Bemrose’s finely constructed characters strives to be as true and as honest as they can with one another, and yet are caught up in the evasions and deceptions that so complicate human life, especially during a war and its aftermath.
The River Twice does for Canada what Pat Barker’s The Regeneration Trilogy did for England—focuses our collective memory on the moral injustices that attend any war, contemporary or historic. John Bemrose draws readers in and won’t let them go until the last page of this astonishingly lyrical and deeply humane novel.