Today I am really excited to welcome the fabulous Katey Hawthorne back to Joyfully Jay. Katey is here to share her new book, By the River, and tell us a bit more about her own river town. Katey is also giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter, so be sure to enter at the end of the post.
Right, I’m gonna get a little nostalgic and sappy on you today. Sorry for that in advance, but I’ve got something pretty to talk about. And I am a sucker for pretty.
Rivers are things to be respected. They flood like whoa, and the big ones have some scary current. I’m from a little town in West Virginia that sits right up on the Ohio, I have some experience in the matter–in spite of my own house being perched in the ancient hills above. But for all that, rivers also have a tendency to be freaking gorgeous and dotted with super adorable little towns. Lots of cracked brick streets, old-timey buildings, Victorian-style houses–even the run-down bits are oddly picturesque in the Ohio Valley.
No, I’m not from the Mothman town. That’s Point Pleasant, which is also adorable, but rather farther south. I’m talking about Wellsburg, the town on which Ashton, WV, the setting for By the River is patterned. Well, I say patterned, but all I did was add an extra street and change the name, so it’s not like I was taking much artistic license.
He started running in town then, like a little ritual of reclamation on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. Down to Ohio Street, through the park, down the length of the waterfront to the wharf, then back again. It was three miles altogether, Ashton twice over. He never stopped, never paused, never looked around all that hard. Just felt the place, reminding it—or maybe himself—that he was home.
Anyone who’s been anywhere near my hometown will recognize it in By the River. But what I really hope is that people who aren’t familiar with the area will get a sense of the quietly surprising prettiness of the place, which is what made me match it up with Adam and Leith. That kind of explains the tone of the whole book, actually. Coming home, finding something beautiful, and being quietly, happily surprised in multiple ways.
Like taking a little walk by the river. You think you know what to expect and then bam. The pretty hits you right in where it hurts, and all you can do is stare.
Shadows stretched across the river, reaching for them. Leith’s eyes grew darker with the water. The little lapping noises against the rocks, the bank, the pylons beneath them sounded almost like laughter. Adam sank into it like he hadn’t been able to sink into anything in Ashton since he’d come home. Sank into it and watched an achingly pretty boy—he was; how Adam hadn’t noticed before just now, he had no idea—watch the sun set.
I’m a firm believer in setting as character, or at least a very large and necessary ingredient in some stories, particularly those reliant on atmosphere. So I’m really glad that this time, I got to use the one that’s closest and most important to me personally. Home.
“I can’t judge. Definitely not when it’s about wanting to stay home.”
Leith smiled and looked up just as the last sliver of sun disappeared, leaving the sky pink, purple, orange, blue. Leaving his eyes just about the same. “Home. Yeah.”
After a bad breakup, Adam Kavanaugh returns to his sleepy old river town to find himself. His family hasn’t changed, but he has some work to do readjusting to small town life, so much that he wonders if he’s made a mistake by coming home.
But from the moment Leith Marshall pops out of the Ohio River and smiles at him, there’s no turning back. Between Leith’s swimmer body, sweet laugh, and gentle soul, Adam is head over heels. Leith lets Adam into his little world bit by bit, from his mother’s abandoned aquarium shop to his elderly father’s fairy tale delusions.
Which might not be so delusional after all. Leith does have a certain affinity for water. It seems almost to listen to him. The current never pulls him downriver, the tub doesn’t splash, and the pool hardly moves around him even at an all out sprint. He can’t spend a night away from his river, and then there’s the way he sings. Adam has to admit, he’d steer his ship straight into the rocks for that.
So maybe Leith inherited a few things from his mysterious mother. It doesn’t mean he’ll disappear like she did. That’s absurd.
To enter to win a copy of By the River, leave a comment below. The contest will close Friday, August 3rd at 11:59 pm EST.
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