Read Rivers by Michael Farris Smith Online


For fans of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx, “a wonderfully cinematic story” (The Washington Post) set in the post-Katrina South after violent storms have decimated the region.It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were wFor fans of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx, “a wonderfully cinematic story” (The Washington Post) set in the post-Katrina South after violent storms have decimated the region.It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land.The Gulf Coast has been brought to its knees. Years of catastrophic hurricanes have so punished and depleted the region that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules—including Cohen, whose wife and unborn child were killed during an evacuation attempt. He buried them on family land and never left.But after he is ambushed and his home is ransacked, Cohen is forced to flee. On the road north, he is captured by Aggie, a fanatical, snake-handling preacher who has a colony of captives and dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region. Now Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman’s prisoners across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down—and Cohen harboring a secret that poses the greatest threat of all.Eerily prophetic in its depiction of a Southern landscape ravaged by extreme weather, Rivers is a masterful tale of survival and redemption in a world where the next devastating storm is never far behind.“This is the kind of book that lifts you up with its mesmerizing language then pulls you under like a riptide” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)....

Title : Rivers
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781451699425
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 337 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Rivers Reviews

  • PirateSteve
    2019-06-11 23:51

    "As I went down to the rivers to prayStudying about them good old daysAnd who shall wear the starry crownGood Lord, show me the way!""O fathers, let's go downLet's go down, come on downO fathers, let's go downDown to the rivers to pray." What if Rivers not there. Taken away like everything else that mattered to you. Your memories remain... mostly sweet, good.Memories and your flooded homeland..... with the promise of more rain and hurricanes.Pray anyway, I say. "he is not dead, he is risen"

  • Carol
    2019-06-06 22:51

    ....4.5 Stars.. After reading the prequel, IN THE BEGINNING, I knew this would be my kind of read with the fury of catastrophic weather, a nearly abandoned land and a vile preaching predator in the midst.....RIVERS is a story of survival. Warning after warning of a destructive band of hurricanes on the way and repeated offers to purchase his property, Cohen refuses to leave his Mississippi home. Even after a close encounter with death, instead of escape, he seeks revenge unaware of the evil he is up against.....RIVERS is also a story of lost love and bittersweet memories of what could have been.Desperation, fear, panic and loneliness with no one to trust combined with constant rain, wind, storms and floods makes for a wild and crazy read with non-stop action and a surprise or two just to keep things interesting. And just when you think it can't get any worse, it does with (view spoiler)[the monster of all storms (hide spoiler)] and a suspenseful exciting conclusion.My second Michael Farris Smith read turned out to be another winner for me. My only complaint is that the book summary gives away too much information, and (view spoiler)[ we never find out what happens to Habana. (hide spoiler)]. Read the prequel instead or go in cold turkey for the ultimate reading experience. (Am glad I did)

  • Elyse
    2019-06-20 00:54

    Yikes almighty frickin hell...It's been a long time since I've read a pulse-pounding novel."It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it had rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and the sunshine glistened across the drenched land."The catastrophe from the hurricanes stretching from the Florida Panhandle to the Louisiana border was so depleted the government drew a new boundary 90 miles north of the coastline. Life below the line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources. NO PROTECTION. Who in there right mind would stay? That's just it....'Cohen' who 'did' stay, wasn't in 'the best' of mind. His wife and unborn child were killed during an evacuation. This story was devastating from the get go. Just the descriptions of the storm - the endless wetness - the cold - the darkness - the winds -the main character owning a .22 rifle - his anxiety, and sensing his deep grief... my god, my chest was tight, my stomach in knots, and my breathing became more erratic. Around 20 pages in -- I 'jumped' ...I got scared. ( surprise storytelling). I couldn't even begin to guess -in advance what surprises were in store in this novel. I was on the edge of my seat often... (getting prepared for the next big storm). There are many heart-racing scenes overlapping each other. It was intense right from the start. The temperature in my own body changed a few times as I read this 'because' the descriptions were so realistic....and the emotions deeply felt.There is a place, though, when I felt I could float and steady my breath....( not rainbows and lollipops), ...but once it's clear ( that Cohen is clear), that he has a purpose and contribution to offer other survivors...I, too, relaxed a little. I wasn't 'as' shaken any longer. Instead, I experienced being taken deeper into the minds of the characters. Flashbacks are built into the storytelling naturally... never feeling choppy. Memories have a 'life-of-there-own', for Cohen. ( lovely memories from when he and Elisa vacationed in Venice...and regretful memories from when he didn't keep his wife an unborn child safe). Cohen's longing for his deceased wife and unborn child is both heart-rending and beautiful. Michael Farris Smith's entire novel is heart-rending- beautiful - intense - suspenseful-and emotionally gripping. A POWERFUL PAGE TURNER!!! ..... ( whew....a little drained)

  • Karen G
    2019-06-14 22:58

    This was the first novel by Michael Farris Smith, and I love this man's writing! I felt like I was right in the middle of the Gulf Coast, where the rain and storms never stopped, causing the government to draw a line where people who live below the line get no help, it's a no man's land, people who stay have to fend for themselves. Cohen, who is grieving the loss of his wife and unborn child, chooses to stay and this is the story of what he faces, and what a journey it is! Very intense and addictive read! I'm so happy I read Desperation Road, which led me to this first novel! I did like Desperation Road a bit more, but this deserves 5 stars as well! I will be keeping my eyes on this author!!

  • Cheri
    2019-06-27 23:36

    4.5 StarsThere must be some kind of way outta here Said the joker to the thief There's too much confusion I can't get no relief All Along the Watchtower - Bob Dylan”It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and the sunshine glistened across the drenched land.”Cohen looked around, his dog beside him, staring at the lumber that sat soaked and thought about starting yet again on re-framing that room, those walls that he’d built over and over, only to have them carried away by the waters.”Her place to sleep, and play, and grow. Four years ago the foundation had been poured, before it was impossible to pour a foundation, before it was impossible to imagine such things as building a room onto your house.” His thoughts drift to those moments when he first saw all his work turned to shreds, along with his hopes and his dreams. He wonders how his father would feel, all his work now gone. No trace remains of what was, no trace remains of them. There was a point in time before the boundary line, and he can recall it, he tries to live in those moments, in his memories, but even his memories are being taken from him, just like his wife and infant daughter were. He stays because he can’t bear to leave them behind. Who would visit their grave? Those left surviving beyond the line, are not really living, their former lives gone with the winds that relentlessly howl, blowing down most things in their path, the rain that washed all hopes of a future worth hoping for. Living outside the law, each man makes his own.No reason to get excited The thief he kindly spoke There are many here among us Who feel that life is but a joke But, uh, but you and I, we've been through that And this is not our fate So let us stop talkin' falsely now The hour's getting late, hey All Along the Watchtower - Bob DylanWhen his house is broken into, ransacked, he cares only for a few precious items. These were all he had left of them, like his talismans conjuring his family back, he must find them, he must have these precious few things back. But first, as he is leaving, he pauses, and leaves a note, knowing the thieves will return:”To whom it may concern—he is not dead he is risen.”And so, a journey will begin, and it will be one hellaciously dark one. In between the devastation that surrounds Cohen, everyone left there, his mind wanders back to those days when hope was alive, as was his wife, and their soon-to-be born daughter. Days with blue skies and sunshine. His life had meaning then. I had to keep reminding myself that this was Michael Farris Smith’s debut novel, I could sense how deliberately chosen each word was. It has often been compared to Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” and while I can see the comparison in tone, I felt that “Rivers” has more of a sense of hope that lives within these characters, the possibility of a future where something worth living for exists.Heart-rending, powerful, moving, losing hope, hoping, finding reasons to keep hope alive despite what is happening in the world around you, ”Rivers” is all these things and more. All along the watchtower Princes kept the view While all the women came and went Barefoot servants, too Outside in the cold distanceA wildcat did growl Two riders were approaching And the wind began to howl All Along the Watchtower - Bob Dylan

  • LeAnne
    2019-06-01 20:52

    HOW MANY OF YOU ARE WATCHING HURRICANE HARVEY COVERAGE AND THINKING ABOUT THIS BOOK?? Prayers for Texas 💔------------------Original review:OMG-good! Call me nuts, but I've read this novel twice in less than a year, just finished a second book club discussion on it, and participated in two author Q&As with Mississippi writer Michael Farris Smith. Seriously, the book is that good.I confess that the publisher's blurb didn't grab me when I saw it last year, but - boy. SO WRONG! The book is set in the near-future on the Gulf Coast where the prime enemy is weather. The constant storms slamming southern Mississippi, plus the federal government's decision to abandon anybody choosing to live south of the Line (their geographical drop-dead boundary), are nottoo big a gap in reality to leap across, This novel kept me in rapt suspense throughout, and although it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's story The Road because the characters are traveling to a more hopeful location, RIVERS was more vivid in description of the dripping, overgrown countryside and largely more optimistic. I was totally invested in the characters, knowing they had a way out and cared very deeply about the main character Cohen in a way I couldn't attach to the father in The Road. Yeah, I know lots of people say Cormac is king, but honey, Smith ain't exactly a pauper when it comes to talent. Keep your eye on this author - he has it.RIVERS follows the tale of Cohen, a young husband and father-to-be who has ignored the federal government's admonition to move north of the Line. There are no first responders down here, no power lines or hospitals, gas stations or grocery stores. But of course, certain people refuse to leave - either for sentimental, mercenary, or sometimes frighteningly bizarre motivations. Something will finally drive Cohen towards the Line, and the characters and events along the way will have you riveted.After enduring years of finger-shriveling damp, endless storms, and repeated attempts to pour concrete and build a house-addition (a nursery for his unborn baby daughter), Cohen gives up his Sisyphus-like endeavors and heads out. Desperation and vengeance are what initially light his fire, but there are jaw-dropping events ahead that will turn him truly north.This is an incredibly atmospheric book, but just when the endless rain and lightening strikes were beginning to grind me down, sunlit flashbacks to happy times would buoy the tale back up. Cohen's love for his wife, their daughter-to-be, and his animals made him hard to resist. There is a scene, pretty early on, where a side character - a bad guy - has run into some trouble. Crawling around near an old church, half-demolished from the storms, this guy ends up with a handful of shattered pieces of stained-glass. Looking up, he realizes that this is the same place where he worshipped as a little boy. Read here how Michael Farris Smith describes him - one of the nobodies in his book. Every person in his stories seems real."In the next hour, as he lay dying, he thought only of that moment of serenity, kneeling next to the church where he had been a boy before he grew into a man and realized the clarity of strength, his knees damp in the wet ground and in his palm the blue and red and purple glass. As he lay dying, his flesh ripped like fabric, his blood flowing freely like the rain that came so often, he thought only of those beautiful shards of glass and the weight that they carried, and he found it difficult to comprehend that while he held those small holy things, how something so big and so powerful and so violent could have been so silent as it crept up behind him."Pretty good, huh?This crossover Southern Literature-Dystopian Adventure will keep you at the edge of your seat. In the wet reaches of kudzu vines and collapsing casino halls, you will meet thugs selling black market provisions, desperate teens trapped by circumstance, a cult leader, and other crazies who have remained south of The Line. Count me in - I'm crazy about "Rivers."Really, really good. Five stars & on my Favorites shelf.

  • Annet
    2019-05-30 22:57

    Well... what a story. Rather grim and dark, literally. Dystopian is one of the categories that interest me. Who says this can't happen, weather changing, relentless rain and water taking the feels sort of realistic in a way. I live in The Netherlands, the low lands, below sea level, we have to protect our country against the rising waters.... So, we know the dangers of water. Rivers is a quick read. Between 3 and 4 stars for me but rather towards 4 so that it is. The Road by Cormac McCarthy remains in the top 5 best ever reads for me as for dystopian books. Rivers is not in that region. But still a pretty good apocalyptic read. Of a lonely heartbroken man, grieving for his wife and child, surviving out there in the wildest and harshest of circumstances....with a dog... and a horse.... Well.... more later this weekend I guess. I've been sitting here trying to place this book and rate it. Let's sleep over it. I look outside, it's 22.15 Dutch time and some snow has just fallen. It's cold and it is peaceful.....

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-06-21 20:58

    We have finally damaged the earth so much that the coastal regions are being struck by unending storms and hurricanes, even the Mississippi valley has become a permanent flood zone. A line is drawn, the line delineating where services and protection will be offered, all other area and people who choose to stay in them are on there on. Of course man kind being what it is, these areas become a violent no man's land.The tone is similar in nature to "The Road" but this is much more expansive than that book was and has many more characters that have banded together due to various circumstances. Parts of it also reminded me of "The Stand", the personal and physical journey undertaken by these characters. The comparisons are only fleeting, this book offers much more, some poignant moments, reflections back to a better time, and the message that as long as there is humanity, there is still hope. I really liked how this author balanced moments of desolation and violence, with moments of love and sacrifice.

  • Cathrine ☯️
    2019-06-22 23:51

    4.4★I was so impressed with the writing in Desperation Road that I rushed to read this and its precursor In the beginning: A short story prequel to the novel Rivers without any story or review prep.Post-Apocalypse is not my reading preference as I feel it's too oppressive, wreaking devastation page after page, with not much hope or satisfaction on the horizon because that’s the issue with any sort of apocalypse right? Nonetheless it was quite compelling, timely, and believable. Years of catastrophic hurricanes have brought the Gulf Coast states to total anarchy and ruin; circumstances and souls will get worse before there is any chance of anything or anyone getting better, or as you know is going to happen, way beyond worse. The prequel sets the reader up and the tempo is fast and furious. It could have been the opening for the novel and is not necessary to read beforehand. It did its job and made me want to follow through despite my bias, giving the reader a thorough soaking of what’s to come — greatly developed characters and storytelling abounding! Did I have feelings of despair at the end? You bet. Warning-major spoiler: (view spoiler)[Not only do we not learn the fate of some characters and our hero Cohen dies with his humanity intact, but the dog died as well. I HATE when that happens—go ahead, kill off all the people but NOT the damn dog. (hide spoiler)]That said, even though I am still not a fan of this genre, which is reflected in my rating, it must be admitted that Smith had me the entire way. And I totally respected him in the morning for my bereavement. I also eagerly anticipate his next offering—The Fighter in 2018.

  • Katie
    2019-06-23 21:02

    Gets my vote for the worst ever depiction of Venice I’ve come across in literature. I wasn’t sure what Venice was even doing in this book. But I had the feeling the author had never been there. Rivers has been compared to The Road but I’m afraid I found none of the artistry of Cormac McCarthy’s book here. Bit like comparing Jaws 3 with the original. Lots of generic characters (the lead character is sensitive, he’s generously attentive to women and animals but he can also be relied upon to win any fight), lots of superfluous chit-chat, lots of driving through rain and gun battles, lots of plot twists that had no plausible foundation. For me this was written by an author who’s much more influenced by popular cinema than he is by literature. Nearly every plot development feels forced. Often the author resorts to making characters act out of character to achieve the necessary twists. For example, the two kids who try to kill our hero are both, it turns out, nice kids. There’s no reason on earth why they have to kill our hero. We’re told the cult leader makes them do it. But the cult leader isn’t on hand to witness what they do. They have other choices. Another plot twist relies on a character taking years to realise something only when the plot needs him to. The house where our hero lives is miraculously immune to marauding outlaws until on the same day he’s carjacked the cult also finds his home. At the end of the novel a whole town breaks off looting to attack our hero for no apparent reason. Also, there are so many coincidences that I felt the map of this novel stretched to barely a square mile. I thought it started off well. We’re in a post-apocalyptic America. The only weather is storms of varying intensity. The lead character, a maudlin chap who can’t let go of the past, is robbed by members of a cult. He wants his stuff back. The cult and its leader had my interest but the cult is just a temporary lay-by and the author drops it almost immediately. From then on, I’m afraid I felt like I was straddling an inflatable dinghy that had sprung a slow leak. I also took exception to its depiction of women who are reduced to providing love interest and having babies. Rather than set in the future it seemed set in a distant past in this regard, as if we were back in the Wild West. I thought Gold Fame Citrus which has a similar premise and also, like this, includes a cult, was miles better.Apologies to my friends here who liked this! Too much testosterone and not enough artistry for me.

  • Sara
    2019-06-12 00:43

    Excellent! Michael Farris Smith has created in Rivers a world that might exist if the hurricanes beating the Southern USA were unrelenting and followed one upon the other until the population had to be evacuated and the area deserted. Some people would stay, some always do. Smith's main character, Cohen is one of those who stays. He is unable to part himself from the memories of his wife and unborn child who have died and are buried behind his home.I must say I loved this book. It felt like a ride on the white water rapids, I barely breathed some of the time, I could feel the tension so palpably. Not being a fan of violent books, I liked that, despite the violent environment they had to cope with, the focus seemed much more on the people themselves. Cohen was a very alive character. I bonded with him immediately and very much cared what happened to him. Michael Smith nails his dystopian world...this is just the way I would expect it to be if such a disaster struck. After having watched the aftermath of Katrina (which none of us can ever forget), it was easy to picture the land as he describes it, the state of the cities, and the condition both mentally and physically of the people."Would he live in another place? And if they managed to get him somewhere, who would change his diapers and teach him his colors and ABCs and would he have friends and would he go to school and would he ever call anyone Momma and would he ever call anyone Daddy? Would he ever play T-ball or learn to ride a bike or not have to worry about being hungry? Would he ever now the story of how he was born and where he was born and who his father was and what a miracle it was that he was alive at all and would he ever now the story of the group of misfits who somehow managed to get him across the Line? He was a long shot. They were all long shots. In every direction, a long shot."It is a story about endurance, perseverance, finding hope in the worst of situations, recovering from losses so great that you can never stand to face them, and the need for others who are also beyond the edge can give you life. "The ghosts will kill you, she thought, and then there was the image of Cohen living alone in that house, with his memories overwhelming hi when he thought they were protecting him. The power of what he had loved and what he had lost so incompetent against the careless strength of the living."My dear Mr. Smith, if this is your first effort, I can barely wait to see your second.

  • Zoeytron
    2019-06-20 21:56

    Bleak skies where the sun is destined never to shine again. Torrential rain, cold and pounding and relentless. Kudzu creeping and growing, its tendrils evolving into thick, twisted arms smothering everything in its path. Buildings are sinking into the very ground. The horror of never being warm and dry is chilling. The lower portion of the country has been condemned, with most people evacuated by the government, the ones who refuse to leave their homes are left to their own devices. A line is drawn, those who stay behind have no power for lights for warmth; above the line there is power and food and law enforcement. There are plenty who stay behind and live to rue that decision. The gun law is nothing more than 'if you got one, you'd better not let nobody take it from you.' Spirits are sapped. Sleep is preferable to almost anything else, because the heart and mind and body just can't cope with the idea of waking up to yet another day of it. The time when one could run to the store and buy anything needed is long past. All energy must be spent on salvaging the bare rudiments of what it takes to survive. As usual, there are those who take advantage of such a situation. A snake-handling nutter has designs on repopulating the area with his own progeny. He has a crew of mean-stupid mouth breathers with automatic weapons to back him up. Scary stuff here.This was a first-reads giveaway. Thank you for a sobering look at a future no one wants. Excellent read.

  • Liz
    2019-05-27 23:58

    Damn, can this man write. When I finished this book, I looked around me and wondered what the hell I was going to do with myself. Incredible writing, atmosphere, characters, suspense… Smith has crazy talent. I loved this book even more than Desperation Road, and that’s saying something. Many other reviewers have already said it well, so nothing I can say here will be new, but I still need to get it out.This story grabbed me by the throat and while it was painful sometimes, at no point did I ever want to put it down. For me, the most compelling facet of Rivers is the life of this lonely man Cohen, who is haunted by the ghosts of his loved ones and drowning in grief that doesn’t ever seem to abate. He’s living in a self-imposed exile, and when circumstances force him out of seclusion, make him responsible for lives other than his own, it could save him or destroy him. The path he chooses is both inspiring and thought-provoking.These characters -- all of them, the good and the bad -- are so fucking alive and true and human and relatable in so many ways. I just don’t know how else to say it. Through each of them you can feel the power of the storms, the cold, wet, bleak, violent world in which they live. But inside them, the desire for something better is what pulls them through their darkest moments. This, I feel, is where Smith’s true gift lies; it’s his ability to create authentic characters and, through them, allow the reader to fully experience the environment in which they exist. Michael Farris Smith’s honest, incisive writing made reading this book a profound experience. It’s one that I would recommend to all of my reading friends without hesitation. I challenge you to not be carried away by the suspense and the redemptive nature of this story. So there’s your recommendation!

  • Connie
    2019-06-06 00:56

    The rain was relentless. For years the winds roared, lightening cracked, vines whipped over toppled trees, water flooded abandoned buildings, and skinny animals roamed the post-Katrina Gulf Coast. The government had transported people to areas north of "The Line" in evacuation buses, but a few survivalists and treasure hunters had remained. It was a lawless world where Cohen stayed in Mississippi, unable to leave his home full of memories of his beloved wife and unborn child who had both died. Cohen had lost everyone important to him, and was filled with regret that he had not taken his wife to a safer area.After Cohen is attacked, and his Jeep and his precious mementos stolen, he goes searching for the culprits. He finds a group of people in damaged trailers, living under the rule of a Bible quoting cult leader. If he is able to help this group of women and children escape from their desperate circumstances, they will have to navigate blocked roads and avoid ruthless looters as they travel north to "The Line".Throughout the book there are flashbacks to happier times when Cohen and his wife vacationed in Venice, a city covered with canals of water. There are also mentions of the novel Death in Venice where the protagonist refuses to leave Venice in the midst of an epidemic. The supernatural is also in the background, appropriate for a situation over which God and Nature are the controlling forces.The book was bleak but very well written, and reminded me a bit of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It was very intense, leaving me feeling exhausted like I had been through a battering storm myself. (Or maybe it was because I stayed up to 3 am finishing the book!) I liked Cohen as a character--a good man who is capable of being tough to protect others, a man who had lost hope only to find hope rekindled. I enjoy post-apocalyptic literature that has the element of believability, and recommend this book to readers who enjoy this genre.

  • Tom Mathews
    2019-06-02 22:01

    Insurance companies refer to storm damage as an act of God, yet I doubt that anyone would see any touch of the divine in the climatic cataclysm that has befallen the Gulf Coast in Michael Farris Smith’s debut novel. In a world where Hurricane Katrina was just the beginning, It has been 613 days since the declaration of the Line, a geographical boundary line drawn ninety miles north of the coastline from the Texas-Louisiana border across the Mississippi coast to Alabama. A geographical boundary that said, we give up. The storms can have it. No more rebuilding and no more reconstruction. The declaration came after several years of catastrophic hurricanes and a climate shift suggested that there was an infinite trail of storms to come…”Beyond the Pale the only law is might makes right. The only residents are scavengers, raiders, treasure hunters and those clinging to a live that has long since blown away. Among the latter is Cohen, a husband grieving the death of his wife and unborn child, who is unwilling to abandon their grave in the sodden soil behind his house. When he is attacked and robbed by raiders he sets out to track down and recover his property. Thus begins a story of an arduous journey that many have compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in an environment as harsh and forbidding as any found in Mad Max, only much, much, much wetter. For a debut novelist, Farris Smith has the chops of a seasoned professional. I expected, and on several occasions thought I found, minor bloopers or loose ends in the story but this talented author consistently made a mockery of my expectations and all the way to the last page regulary took the story in an entirely different direction from what I thought he would. I highly recommend this book and am excitedly looking forward to his next two releases; Desperation Road, coming out next year, and The Fighter, coming in 2018. ***FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:*5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.*4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.*3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered great or memorable.*2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending. *1 Star - The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.

  • James Thane
    2019-06-24 23:04

    This is a post-apocalyptic tale that will remind many readers of Cormac McCarthy's book, The Road. It's set in a not too far-distant future when, presumably because of climate change, the Gulf Coast from Florida across to Texas has become a soggy, desolate area of constant rain and storms where the sun never shines. Katrina-like hurricanes have repeatedly devastated the region to the point where rebuilding no longer makes any sense.Neither does living there, and so the government has drawn a line ninety miles north of the coast, and has abandoned the region south of The Line. The people have been ordered to evacuate permanently and the government assumes no responsibility for those who ignore the order and stay behind. There are no services and there is no law there.Inevitably, some choose to remain behind. One of them is a man named Cohen who is mourning the loss of his wife and their unborn child who were killed before the family could escape. Cohen is shackled by his memories to what's left of the house that he and his wife shared and, crazy as it seems, he remains determined to build the room addition he had planned for the baby, even though the lumber is too wet to build with, and even though the wind blows down every wall he manages to erect.In the meantime, he must contend with the scavengers and others who have remained behind, living by the primitive law of the jungle and ready to claim ownership of anything and anyone, simply by the power of possession, at a time and in a place where legal ownership no longer means anything.Inevitably, the fortunes turn against Cohen and he must finally head north. It's an almost impossible journey with virtually every danger one can imagine along the way. It would be tough enough for one man to make it alone, but then Cohen encounters a group of survivors, mostly women and children. Now he must decide whether to abandon them or try to take them with him, which will make the journey infinitely more difficult.This is a beautifully written book, but at times it's awfully depressing. Smith describes the rain and cold so vividly that the reader feels almost compelled to stop every fifty pages or so to dry off or, even better, to jump under a hot shower and then dry off. The characters are very well drawn, and immediately pull you into their struggle. It's a story one is not likely to forget any time soon, and one which made this reader even more grateful for the fact that he lives in the dry and sunny northern Sonoran Desert and not along the Gulf Coast.

  • Linda
    2019-06-01 23:03

    3.99 Kindle Special 10/27/16Oh my, what a fantastic, intense read! This is definitely a favorite for 2016. I felt a connection with the setting because we were stationed in Gulfport, MS and lived in Biloxi when my husband was in the Navy. I'm very familiar with the area."It was as if they were being returned to the earth, driven into the ground by the force of the storm, their stiff bodies less skin and bone and more mud and root with each passing moment."Katrina was only the beginning and years of devastating storms have caused the US to cede the Southeast coast to Mother Nature from Florida to the western Louisiana border. Life below the Line has no services, no electricity, no resources and no laws, Cohen chose to stay. The storms and rain are an ever present back drop, but the book takes the reader in unexpected directions. Intense, suspenseful and thought provoking. Powerful writing! I can't wait to read more from this Mississippi author. It's hard to believe this is Mr. Smiths first novel. Read it!!

  • Tiffany
    2019-06-07 17:48

    An endless line of hurricanes has battered the Gulf Coast for years, below the a boundary called "the line" everyone has been evacuated aside from some who stay in this wet, rotting place. This debut novel by Mississippi author, Michael Farris Smith, was stunning. Anyone who has lived on the coast and experienced hurricanes could easily imagine this sort of reality. Superb writing and great characters. Can't wait to see what is next from this author. Thank you Mississippi Library Commission for this recommend.

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-06-07 19:43

    Holy God, what a book! I was of two minds the whole time I was reading, sick of the storms and the wet and the hunger and the violence that was inherent in life below "the line", but needing to get back to it whenever I had to put the book down. I won't rehash the plot outline, as the book description gives you the gist of the story, but there is enough action in this one to satisfy anyone. Some people have classified this as a post-apocalyptic novel, but it was not difficult at all for me to see these events happening in this country just a few years down the road. Scary thought, but also a reminder not to lose our humanity and goodness when the bad times come.Two very important things I learned during the reading of this book: 1. Do not open locked doors inside abandoned gas stations if you don't know what's behind them. 2. When the authorities tell you to evacuate, GET THE HELL OUT!Michael Farris Smith is hopefully working on another book, because I will read anything he writes in the future. This book was a work of art, and when you realize the source of the title it will make you gasp.(Just as an aside, if there are any doctor types or personal trainers reading this review, I would love to know if a book that makes your heart race while reading it is a viable alternative to aerobic exercise. Just asking, it could be a healthy alternative to all that exertion, and certainly much more pleasant for us readers.)

  • Lou
    2019-06-13 21:44

    Out Today!Read My Interview with this great new voice word placed carefully after the other with heartfelt necessity, sentences that keep you reading and fully immerse you into the scene with eery realistic imagery, you feel the desolation, the solitude, the love, and the loss.This author has a potent and poetic prose, repeating and orchestrating a fine symphony, a cadence of reflections on world gone topsy turvy and the lost, all this has you subdued by the jugular and hypnotically taken into its haunted and unforgettable realm.A road to somewhere story. I loved its simplicity, grace, and terrible beauty.The praise from James Lee Burke, a great writer and novelist, should be enough of a reason to read this, he, William Faulkner, and Cormac McCarthy, to name a few, all write great stories with the haunting and the unforgettable, their writings with tragedy intertwined are a cycle of retelling that transcends in many forms from the Greek and Shakespearian tragedy tale till now and continues on into the new writers to come with this author being one of them, with this debut of a grande voice. Excerpts:"He turned off the light. Blended with the sound of the storm was the sound of the wash against the shore, the tumble of the whitecaps. A cold wind blew in off the water and he pushed the hood from his head and felt the wind and rain on his face and leaned his head back and felt it around his neck and ears and it was in those moments that he could feel her still there. Still there when there was only the dark and the sounds of what she had loved. He closed his eyes and let the rain soak into him and she was there at the edge of the water, the salty foam rushing around her ankles and her hair across her face and her shoulders red from the sun. He let himself fall back and he lay stretched across the horse, his arms flailing to the sides, the barrel of the shotgun pointing down toward the wet sand and the flashlight dangling from his finger-tips. The rhythm of the waves and the crash of the rain and the solitude and the big black world around him and it was in these moments that he felt her there."Elisa," he said.He sat back up in the saddle and pulled on his hood. He looked out across the dark ocean and listened and he thought that he heard her. Always thought he heard her no matter how hard the wind blew or how hard the rain fell.He listened, tried to feel her in the push of the waves.""The kudzu had begun to creep like some green, smothering carpet, taking over roads and bridges. Finding its way up and around chimneys and covering rail lines. Swallowing barns and houses. Sneaking across parking lots and wrapping itself around the trunks of trees and covering road signs. The constant flooding and drying out and temperature swings had split the asphalt of parking lots and roadways, the separations becoming the refuge of rats and skinny dogs. Chunks of beach had disappeared as if scooped out by a giant spoon, leaving the flat waters of a lagoon where people used to sit with their feet in the sand and drink beer from cold glasses and eat shrimp from a bed of ice served in a silver bowl.This was Cohen's world as he navigated the Jeep carefully through the rain and the debris.""He reached out his hand.He was shaking and he took heavy breaths to try and stop it but he could not. She hovered there in front of him as if waiting for something and he closed his eyes and it was then that she became more clear as she was lying there with her head in his lap and his hand on her pregnant stomach. On the asphalt of Highway 49, underneath an eighteen-wheeler, surrounded by the screams of those who were running for it as they had all seen them coming, the handful of tornadoes breaking free from the still black clouds, like snakes slithering down from the sky, moving toward the hundreds, maybe thousands of gridlocked cars that were only trying to do what they had been told to do. Get the hell out of here. Don't pack anything. Don't stop. Get your family and get in your car and get the hell out of here and that was what they had done. Like they had all done so many times in the last years but this time there had been no head start. No window. Only get in and get out. And the tornadoes splintered out of the sky and weaved toward them and then exploded through the bodies and the cars and trucks, metal and flesh being lifted and catapulted.""And this would be the last memory that he would have as he lay dying. The memory of kneeling there, in this place where he had been a boy with a mother, with the pieces of the holy glass in his hands. Not the realizations of what he had done, the flesh and blood that he had claimed along with Aggie, the women he had corralled and made his own, their bodies and their minds and maybe even their hearts and souls, unlocking the doors when he wanted and feeding them when he wanted and doing what he wanted when he felt the urge. For what other reason was there to keep them? He didn't think of them or the men he had separated them from. The blood on his hands and the tilth on his fingertips. Hedidn't think of the man that he was and the power he had grasped and he didn't sing for forgiveness or call out for redemption. In the next hour, as he lay dying, he thought only of that moment of serenity, kneeling next to the church where he had been a boy before he had grown into a man and realized the clarity of strength, his knees damp in the wet ground and in his palm the blue and red and purple glass. As he lay dying, his flesh ripped like fabric, his blood flowing freely like the rain that came so often, he thought only of those beautiful shards of glass and the weight that they carried, and he found it difficult to comprehend that while he held those small holy things, how something so big and so powerful and so violent could have been so silent as it crept up behind him.""IN HIS PREDICAMENT, THE ONLY THING AGGIE COULD DO WAS THINK. AND HE did. He thought of the sweaty nights in the sweaty room with the sweaty snakes slithering through his arms and around his neck and waist as the organ played and the people sang and shouted. Thought of how it moved them and how the men wanted to shake his hand and the women wanted to be led by him and how he did lead them all the way and how good it felt when they were only nodding, no matter what he asked them to do. He thought of fists against his face in barrooms and the thrill ride of whiskey and the summer dark and he thought of nights in jail staring out of a square window at a black dotted sky when he felt like he was at the bottom of a well. He thought of the anarchy of the evacuations and how it filled him to be alive in the midst of the panic and he thought of once when he was a boy and a man who was living with him and his mother had slammed her against the wall and he thought of the knife he had stuck in the back of the man's leg later as he slept on their couch and the sound the man had made as the blade sank in. He thought of the work he had done to gather a community and he thought of the crying of the newborn child and he thought of the purity of the rising sun across the horizon in the morning after a storm. He sat there, tied to the trailer, the rain on him as if he were nothing more than stump, and he imagined that the thunder was calling him, a voice from somewhere out there speaking to him in a language that only he could understand. He soaked in the rain and listened to the thunder and his arms ached from being stretched and tied. What more can you give to them? What more can they want: It has always been like this, they did the same thing to Him. He gave them all they could want and all they could need. He showed them the path to glory and they tortured Him, spit on him, watched Him bleed and bleed and bleed. And now here I am and all i did was protect them, shelter them, feed them. All I did was lead them through the storms, a watchful shepherd and his Mock, and now I can scream out in the night and they will hear me and no one will come. Not a one. It has always been like this. And it always will be.He thought of how this was going to end, realizing the things he had gained and the things be had lost, and it almost seemed to him like these thoughts were the thoughts of another man's life.""Then she had found herself alone and she had discovered that there were plenty of things in this work that were unimaginable. She had never been able to understand this place with these men and their roped-down trailers. Never been able to conjure anything more horrific than this as she lay down at night. Instead of creating new worlds, her dreams were filled with fascinations of escape. Filled with fascinations of revenge. Filled with the faces of those she had loved and now missed. And in the waking hours, she could only wonder where they were. Wonder if someone was looking for her. Wonder if anyone was still alive who cared. She was certain she had family. Somewhere. But this new world was so vast and shifting and unanswerable that she hadn't been able to create anything but an unhappy ending for herself and the others. The little girl whose mind once was a carnival of ghost tales and spirit worlds and the romance of hurricanes was now a young woman whose insatiable imagination had been replaced with the sharp edges of the real thing.""As they sat there in the dark, the weight of it all began to collapse around them in the confined space. The storm muted all and left them suspended in the absence of sound. A steady, heavy drone. Mariposa slumped in her chair and Brisco lay across her lap. Nadine held the baby, her head bowed and resting on top of the tiny bundled body. Kris stretched out her legs and rested her bands across her stomach. Evan stared at Brisco. Cohen stared at his hands. Quiet, fatigued silhouettes.They were small things against this big thing. Against this enormous thing. Against this relentless thing. Small, exhausted things whose lives had become something so strange and extraordinary that it didn't seem possible that they could be anywhere but sitting in this abandoned building in this abandoned land in this storm-tilled night in this storm-tilled world. They sat still and exuded exhaustion. Maybe even hopelessness. Maybe even helplessness. The day had begun with the idea of a finish line, but that idea was being washed away in this torrent of despair."Review also @

  • Laura
    2019-06-15 18:36

    Great book with excellent character development. Lots of action and NONE of it predictable! Very entertaining. Some very intense moments.

  • Christine
    2019-06-27 17:55

    WOOWWWWW! What an addiction this book was. I couldn't wait to get back to it. Crazy story!

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-06-06 16:39

    In a near-future apocalyptic Mississippi, hurricanes and flooding are so frequent (nearly constant) that the government has redrawn the southern border of the country above the disaster zone. Anyone living south of The Line has no government assistance, no security, and must fend for him or herself. This setting is one of the most realistic apocalyptic worlds I have read. I'm intentionally not using the word "post" because throughout the novel, destruction continues. People are trying to survive below The Line, but hail and winds and rains are still a bigger enemy than the sprinkling of humans trying to create lives for themselves.Cohen is a man who holed up in grief until he goes against his instincts and gives a ride to a man and woman on the road. Various events force him to make the next moves in his life in order to survive. I was quite interested in the story in the first half and in the end, but the middle almost lost me as Cohen seems to wander more in his memories than in solving his problems.I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I didn't realize he was the reader until the end, and thought he must just be a voice actor I hadn't heard before. His accent is subtle but places the listener within the region, and he sounds slightly worn, slightly tired, which fits the character completely. I was given a review copy by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

  • Kendall
    2019-06-21 16:57

    First the disclaimer: Michael Farris Smith is my colleague in creative writing at Mississippi University for Women. Of course, I'm going to like his book! However, even I was surprised by it. Not that I would expect anything less than a good read, but Rivers is much more than a good read. Michael's prose is a delight. His characters are fresh and at times haunting. He weaves back and forth in time to show us a dystopian future that is all too real juxtaposed with a much more normal and at times idyllic past. The combined effect is to heighten the drama in the present time of the narrative, since the normal world is never too far away from a world turned topsy turvy by endless hurricanes and tropical storms. Ultimately, the core of the book rests on the emotional choices the characters must make. It is a story of grief and loss, as well as a story of attempted new beginnings, of moving forward and looking back. It is a story that will pick you up with the first page and never let you drop until the last. Clear some time before you crack the cover. This is one book you won't want to stop reading.

  • Perry
    2019-06-25 17:00

    Briefly Experiencing a Real World DYSTOPIAThanks to my friends' stellar reviews, I've started reading this book. The book's description triggers flashbacks to experiencing Dystopia* once in 4D real life. I realize how lucky I am not to have lived in that dire world between Waveland, MS and New Orleans, LA in early Sept 2005, a few days after Hurricane Katrina. Waveland especially. I was part of a charitable foundation who was delivering food, a fire truck and a cop car to this little town a few days after Katrina. On the 5 or so miles of highway to Waveland going directly south from the Interstate, cars were toppled and strewed here and there like a 5 year old boy's hot wheels collection. The water had made it all the way up the 5-7 miles north due to the flooding rivers.So long as I live, I will be imprinted with visions of standing at what was Waveland's city hall. It sat on a probably 500 yard incline from the Gulf rising to a plain with a railroad track behind; as I stood on its foundation, I looked to the left, to the right and straight ahead toward the Gulf and as far as I could see, there was nothing but solid rubble, some brush, and toppled trees stripped of leaves and lined along sand-covered streets were concrete foundations haunted by the ghosts of houses above them. The only thing standing higher than 6 feet tall in that panorama was the City's flagless flag pole less than 5 feet from me. No one in our group of 20 said a word for what seemed like an hour, and for all that time, the only thing I heard, in my mind's ear, were screams from the many who stayed that stormy Sunday evening and died by drowning as daylight broke on Monday morning.I wish I could adequately describe the impact that day had on me in the months and years thereafter. Living on the Gulf Coasts of Alabama and Mississippi, I have lived through a few hits (the most directly was Frederick in 1979) and several near misses. I've also been on the fringes (all the power in south Alabama was knocked out for several days by Katrina), but nothing ever approaching what I saw that day and in the months thereafter in New Orleans.I look forward to reading and reviewing this book.*defined as either:a) State in which the conditions of life are extremely bad as from deprivation or oppression or terror; orb) a work of fiction describing an imaginary place where life is extremely bad because of deprivation or oppression or terror

  • Kirk Smith
    2019-06-01 19:51

    More nerve-racking than Walking Dead, even greater risk of fatal consequence from EXTREMES of Nature run amok. Great story it will read fast because it can't be put down! 4 point 5

  • ~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~
    2019-05-27 20:48

    2.5 starsThis book probably deserves 3 stars for the quality of the writing, but I found it so bleak and depressing, I rounded down to 2 stars. I could read it only in small doses, and my reaction to the plot and characters wasn't so much sadness as frustration. This novel has been compared to McCarthy's The Road, a fairly apt comparison. The writing style, particularly, is resonant of McCarthy: all introspection and imagery. Set in the Gulf area of the United States, Rivers paints a postapocalyptic world where climate change has finally destroyed most of the U.S. southern coast, which is nearly underwater (unfortunately, this felt completely probable to me, something that most likely will happen in the future; as thus, this book is much more gritty Western and survival of the fittest than science fiction). The U.S. government has ordered all citizens to evacuate the region. Those who stay do so at their own risk. Cohen, the MC, is one such vigilante, hellbent on staying in his home and grieving for his dead pregnant wife in peace. He is, both metaphorically and literally, drowning in his sorrow. He has his rifle, dog, and Jeep. Sometimes he drives into "town" for supplies. On one such trip he stops to help a couple teens against his better judgement. Of course, he's ambushed, and his Jeep is stolen. In an effort to get his Jeep back, Cohen tracks the teens to a weird cultish compound controlled by Aggie the preacher who is trying to imprison and impregnate as many women as he can to repopulate the world. Cohen learns why Evan and Mariposa (the teens) did what they did, and he forms an unlikely alliance with them, as well as some of the women at the compound. Together, they search for a way out of the flooded zone to safe land. This book is oddly paced and painfully slow most of the time, broken up by unsettling, hyper action scenes. There's not a lot of dialogue, and the characters don't seem to talk as much as think aloud. Of course, everything is written sans quotation marks. The passages generally lack commas, so there is a sense of abstract flow to the prose, and some of the descriptions are quite vivid and beautiful. The starkness of the prose, however, distances the reader from the characters, and we anticipate a dreary ending, one with little hope of redemption. I finished the book out of duty rather than interest. This drowned world is meaningless, and Smith is determined to sketch (albeit ambiguously) the misery and pain. Great literature doesn't need to be happy, but it does need to resonate. This book doesn't. Ultimately, it just simmers slowly, and begs the question, So what?

  • Jordan Anderson
    2019-06-03 23:53

    I'm a huge sucker for post apocalyptic stories. Where I got this desire from, I don't know, but the thought of life, teetering on the edge of oblivion, with only the most resourceful and hard-core survivors left, has always appealed to me. I suppose that makes perfect sense as to why I immediately fell in love with "Rivers".I get that it's not a true "PA" novel, so don't harass me about that, but "Rivers" is a bleak and brutal story about survival and to what ends people will go to continue to live. I'm never one to give a big synopsis in my reviews, but know that this is not a happy story and there are no redeeming characteristics or qualities in any single character. Instead, you have everyone looking out for themselves, doing what they need to live in a southern United States inundated with constant hurricanes and relentless storms. First and foremost, Michael Farris Smith is a true wordsmith. Some will argue with his prose, and his obvious lack of following basic grammatical principles, but that is exactly what sets him above other authors. Much like the genius of Cormac McCarthy, Smith knows how to craft beauty in the brutal scenes and heartbreak and compassion. In fact, there were many times I had to almost double check that I wasn't reading a new McCarthy novel. The style itself is not the only similarity between the two authors. Constant times I was reminded of "The Road" and the struggles both sets of characters must endure. One can also see smatterings of Justin Cronin's "The Passage" and Stephen King's "The Stand". It is obvious who Smith's sources of inspiration comes from. I've said this before in other reviews, but generally speaking, I don't enjoy happy endings in novels, especially in ones where the world, or certain aspects of it are ending. In this regard, Smith delivers in spades. The ending could be seen as a slightly joyous occasion, but unlike many authors who water down their conclusions, Smith leaves it up for his readers to decide. I have great respect for any author who can do that, and make it work so well.As far as full-length debut novels go, you'd be hard-pressed to find one as complete and almost perfect as this. Michael Farris Smith really knocks the ball out of the literary park and honestly, this book will probably go down as one of my favorites for the year. I find that quite fitting as 2013 quickly comes to a close and this will most likely be my last read of the year.

  • John
    2019-06-21 23:55

    A Riveting Near Future Dystopian Debut NovelMichael Farris Smith writes like William Faulkner, with more than a nod to Cormac McCarthy and J. G. Ballard, in his debut novel “Rivers”, chronicling one man’s heroic efforts in returning to civilization in the wake of a near future climatological disaster which has rendered much of the coastline of the southern United States flooded or otherwise uninhabitable, a veritable “no man’s land” in which barbarism is the status quo. Cohen refuses to leave the house he had called home for himself, his deceased wife and their unborn child, until he is confronted by a pair of young thieves who steal momentos of his once happy life spent in the company of his wife not only in the United States, but during a honeymoon vacation in Venice, Italy, shortly before the worst effects of anthropogenic global warming take root, creating monster storms and rendering much of the coastal South uninhabitable. His only hope for salvation is to find his way to the Line, the demarcated boundary between the savage coastal South and the rest of the United States, which is still functioning as a democratic republic. Along the way he will confront a sadistic ruler of a camp occupied by women, including several he has impregnated, and murderous thieves seeking to find hidden wealth left behind in the savage coastal South. Much to his credit, Smith offers one of the most realistic near future dystopias I have seen in recently published dystopian fiction, and his is a dystopian vision that is far more credible than Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, with language and settings that seem to come straight out of one of J. G. Ballard’s near future dystopian science fiction novels. “Rivers” is among the most impressive debut novels published in recent years which I have read, and one in which its mainstream literary writer has opted to demonstrate the potential excellence of literary speculative fiction of the kind written by the likes of J. G. Ballard and Ursula K. Le Guin, among others.

  • Tina
    2019-06-17 00:45

    My rare 5 star "it is worthy of being a classic rating" goes to Michael Farris Smith for Rivers. Don't miss this book if you like dystopian or post-apocalypse reads because this one feels very real. I freely admit to being a big fan of dystopian and post-apocalypse books, but let's face it, most of these books are really far-fetched. They are somewhat fantastical and sometimes a bit science fiction too. I enjoy the escape from reality that they give me immensely and that is why I read them. Rivers was cut from a different mold entirely. Rivers is not like other post-apocalypse books at all because it feels very real. Only one book before Rivers really struck me with the potential of being real and that was George Orwell's 1984. I read it for the first time in high-school in 1984 and it has stuck with me for all these years. Rivers has that same staying power for me that 1984 had. From the first chapter you are entrenched in this book. You can feel the dampness and the desperation. You feel the hunger and the fear. You remember all the bad storms you have known firsthand and others you have read about. You will remember your friends that rode out Katrina in Biloxi and lived to tell you about it. You will remember your friends' grandmother that drowned and was never heard from again. At least, I did. It probably helped that I read this entire book during incessant rain and flooding across the Southern United States, but without Farris' beautifully crafted story, I doubt it would have felt so real to me. It gave me chills.Aside from the last chapter, this book is solid. Even the ending cannot be called weak because all stories cannot be tied up with a pretty bow at the end. Anxious for my friends to read this and tell me what they think. Truly I believe my Southern friends will feel the impact of this book the most.