A River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts

Historical Fiction

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book, for which I’ve given an honest review.

5 Stars

Book cover illustration has a charcoal effect, showing a serious Native American man with trees behind himA River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The possibilities were horrid, pungently bringing to mind the half-dead man the Good Samaritan had aided…
Yet, if I did not help him, how was I different from the story’s heartless priest or Levite?

As a young woman in the spring of 1817, Alcy Callen has no idea of the drastic turn of events that will answer for her the proverbial question, “Who is my neighbor?” in A River Too Deep, a novel by author Sydney Tooman Betts.

In some ways, this book reminds me of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, a historical television show that I love and respect for many reasons, including its depiction of race relations in America. I appreciate fiction that can take characters of different cultures and depict them as more than caricatures of their race.

Alcy has prejudices she must face, and it isn’t because she’s some hateful, haughty, or Godless white person. The novel takes a look at a principle, a reason why human beings sometimes look to dehumanize others: “If we label a whole group savage, we feel justified fulfilling our manifest destiny at their cost.” And as Native Americans in the story approach the Creator in ways that differ from the ways where Alcy has come from, she wonders, “How much of what we call Christian is our own tradition, unrelated to Scripture or morality?”

Indeed, this is a scripture-heavy novel, and I admittedly felt the many end note numbers were distracting. I find them more appropriate for nonfiction and “study flow” than for novels and “story flow,” and had this been a different novel, I likely would’ve thought Alcy’s frequent scripture quoting to be a heavy-handed teaching tactic detracting from story. But, because Scripture as a whole has a central, vital role in the plot, it works.

Then, not to mention the romance here, which I found to be riveting and passionate in its simplicity. As much as I love romantic stories, I’m not really one to swoon while reading them, but I might’ve swooned a time or two in this case.

I suppose it would take much longer for me to explain everything I think and grew to love about this book, but I’d highly recommend it to fellow historical ChristFic readers.

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12 thoughts on “A River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts

  1. jeanannwilliams says:

    Nadine, this sounds like a really great story, but when I went to Amazon, it’s been updated and the cost is almost $48.00. Do you know if the 2005 version is the current title you read? I’d love to read this book, but not at this cost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nadine C. Keels says:

      You’re quite welcome. I kept hearing readers in a Facebook group mention how much they love this novel, so I figured I’d have to read it sooner or later. 😀 I’m not one for automatically believing “hype,” so to speak, and I don’t think I’m bound to love or hate a book just because other people do, but when I started falling in love about a fifth of the way into this novel, I think I understood what all of the praise had been about.

      Liked by 1 person

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