Review of Trembling River by Andrée A. Michaud

Trembling River
By Andrée A. Michaud
Translated by J.C. Sutcliffe

403 Pages, $23.00

Marnie Duchamp’s father and Billie Richard’s father have nothing in common except being tied to people who have seemingly vanished into thin air. August 1979: Micheal Saint-Pierre, 12, disappears into the woods near Rivière-aux-Trembles under the gaze of his best friend, Marnie. Three decades later, in a neighbouring town, nine-year-old Billie Richard never returns home after school. Bogged down by guilt, grief and trauma, Marnie and Billie’s fathers must come to terms with the incomprehensible and inconceivable disappearances that have upended their lives. Little do they know that another tragedy is about to befall them yet again.

In Trembling River, Andrée A. Michaud explores the textures of sorrow and mourning underpinned by a mystery that slowly builds into a rolling crescendo, and offers an unexpectedly satisfying ending without succumbing to clichés. Michaud’s mastery shines in her seemingly effortless character creation and their sincere connections to the world around them. The innocent and endearing relationship shared by Billie and her father is an enduring image that will stay with the readers long after they’ve turned the last pages. While the plot drags on occasion, it is relieved by the authentic interiority of her characters, who are as witty, funny and sarcastic as they are miserable, tortured and marred by self-loathing.

Deeply moving and often heartbreaking, Trembling River manages to confront the wreckage left behind when children go missing. It lays bare the layers of grief and in the same breath celebrates the microcosm of childhood. Perhaps, the success of this novel is in articulating a desire to deflect to the unrestrained imagination that inundates childhood whenever the weight of sorrow becomes noticeable. An emotionally charged literary-mystery fiction, Trembling River delivers a fitting end to those willing to weather the storm of grief.

—Arshiya Malik

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