Down by The River is set in a small Smoky Mountain town in Tennessee. The Smokies have always seemed mystic and I picked up this book with great expectations. Expectations that were largely fulfilled by this story.
Grace Conley has lived her married life in Nashville. She has four grown children and has been recently widowed. She finds herself at a loose end and talks to herself or her husband about everything. She is visiting her daughter who goes to town in Gatlinburg and comes across a deserted property. Two small girls materialize from the river and tell her what a fine bed and breakfast it used to be. A strange woman in Gatlinburg sees her surrounded by mimosas running an inn, and another unexpected sign leads her to believe the inn will be her salvation.
In what appears to be a foolish and rash decision to her family, Grace Conley buys the old bed and breakfast and sets to work resurrecting the Mimosa Inn. In a short time, she is the beloved new resident of the small town of Townsend. The river runs right by her property and a small hanging bridge connects to the other side, where the handsome Casanova Jack Teague makes his home. Jack has a redoubtable reputation even in his fifties, but there is some attraction between the two.
In a surprising turn, adding some intrigue to the story, there is a mysterious character at large, giving warnings to people. Grace’s daughter is a budding pianist and she soon comes to live with her. She is surprised by the small community and the faith that holds them. Margaret, like Grace, is in store for a lot of surprises, if only she will open her heart.
This book is about second chances, enlightenment and leaving your past mistakes and prejudices behind. The dilemmas the characters face are relatable, and you want to cheer them on.
Down by the River is a feel good book. The characters are likable and believable. This is an inspirational story, and there is a lot about finding God, or leaving your troubles to a higher power. There are no quotes from Scriptures like some books have, but the theological points put forward are thought provoking. At the same time they do not take over the book.
Remember Dolly Parton’s A Smoky Mountain Christmas? And how a harried celebrity is won over by the simple life in her old hometown? I would say this is a good story and a good read even for someone who does not usually read Inspirational or Christian fiction. It is easy to skip over the parts, and reading them won’t be a burden regardless of your faith. Some lines might sound corny or stretched to someone who doesn’t go for this sort of thing, but the story is too good to pass over just because you don’t want to read something inspirational.
I have had some memorable trips to the Smokies and the setting was nostalgic for me. Small town life at its best, and a simple life at that – something we can all escape to once in a while!
Down by the River is recommended hands down.