Three Rivers Rising

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of The Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards

Celestia has always been the daughter who obeys her father, preferring books over boys.  But when she meets Peter, a boy who works at the hotel she is staying at with her family, she falls in love.  The two of them spend secret hours together swimming in Lake Conemaugh, talking and stealing kisses.  Distracted by her budding relationship, Celestia is not aware that her sister is also in love, but Estrella has gone much farther and ends up pregnant.  Celestia must now give up her love and attend to her family.  When she returns a year later, Peter no longer works at the hotel, and Celestia must make a fateful choice – to be disowned by her wealthy family and follow her heart or to obey and marry a man she doesn’t care for.  Her choice, made in 1889, comes just before the historical disaster of the Johnstown Flood.  Far more is about to be at stake than being disowned.

Tautly written in verse, this book immerses the reader into the culture of the day.  It is a world where class is protected, where wealth is new or old, where hotel boys do not mingle with guests, where children are disowned, where love flourishes despite it all.  Richards has cleverly taken different voices and told their stories here.  The reader knows that disaster is about to happen, keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout the story.  As each voice speaks, there is another character to care about, another perspective to view the flood and the society from. 

Though this is the story of the flood, it is also the story of love that transcends barriers.  It is at heart a romance set in a terrible time.  Richards’ poetry is by turns sweet and bitter.  As the flood occurs, readers will find themselves amazed, saddened and devastated.  We are in Richards’ hands here and what great hands they are.  It is hard to believe this is a debut novel given the confidence and ability that she demonstrates.

Highly recommended, this book is historical fiction at its best combined with the best of a verse novel.  Prepare to be mesmerized.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

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