River Woman by Donna Hemans
A Novel

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 3 Critic Reviews



In an unforgettable debut, Donna Hemans crafts a haunting novel of promises kept and promises broken, exploring the unyielding bonds joining mother and child -- bonds that neither time nor betrayal can sever.

As she washes her laundry in the river, Kelithe is startled from her daydreams by the sound of women screaming. It is not until she sees a small body in the shallow water that she realizes what has happened. Her young son, Timothy, has drowned in the Rio Minho.

The women of Standfast, Jamaica, whisper that she stood and watched Timothy die so that she could seize her chance to join her mother in America. Numb with grief, Kelithe lacks the strength to confront them. She can only wait for the funeral. And for her mother to come stand by her at last.

It is into this cauldron of guilt, grief, and suspicion that Sonya returns to bury the grandson she has never seen. Fifteen years ago, promising to send for her five-year-old daughter "soon, soon," Sonya set off for America. Year after year, she struggled to get settled enough to do right by Kelithe. But even as Sonya married and had a second daughter, Kelithe grew to womanhood under her grandmother's care, found fleeting love in a stranger's arms, and had a shame-filled pregnancy of her own. And when Sonya was finally ready, there was room only for Kelithe. Timothy would have to stay behind. Kelithe would have to abandon him as she herself had been abandoned. But Sonya would send for him "soon, soon."

What really happened at the Rio Minho? It is a question Sonya cannot ask, and an accusation Kelithe will not answer. And it lies at the heart of this shattering novel. In spare, powerful prose, Donna Hemans lays barethe human heart, and the many facets of truth.


About Donna Hemans

See more books from this Author
Donna Hemans, born in Jamaica, earned an undergraduate degree in English and journalism from Fordham University and an MFA from American University. She lives in Maryland. This is her first novel.
Published January 2, 2002 by Washington Square Press. 240 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for River Woman

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Then the rumors start that Kelithe watched her son as he went under, seeing it as the way to escape from rural, impoverished Standfast to New York, where her mother went when Kelithe was five, promising “soon-soon” to send for her.

| Read Full Review of River Woman: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

The drowning prompts the return of Kelithe's mother, Sonya, who had abandoned her for a life in the States, promising "soon-soon" to send for the girl.

| Read Full Review of River Woman: A Novel

Project MUSE

Kelithe's own motherhood is haunted by her absent mother, Sonya, who immigrates to the United States when Kelithe is just a child.

| Read Full Review of River Woman: A Novel

Reader Rating for River Woman

An aggregated and normalized score based on 12 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review