River, Diverted by Jamie Tennant

This book! I put this book down several times after reading well into it, each time it beckoned to me to pick it back up. And, each time, I picked it up again. Why? River, Diverted by Jamie Tennant starts out with an interesting hook: from the first sentence, “I’m holding a book that cannot exist.”

“At the bottom, in a simpler font, it says ‘By River Black’. But, okay – here’s the thing. My name is Helen Olinda Delaney – but it is also River Black. I’m River Black. But I didn’t send this manuscript to a publishing house, work on it with an editor, or even show it to my sister, and I make my sister read everything I write. I don’t even possess a copy of this manuscript. There was only ever one, and I burned it down to ashes.”

I was hooked! This beginning pulled me into the story of River Black, as she returns to Nagano, Japan twenty years after she first worked at J.J. International as a lounge hostess. Her life to this point is of a disgruntled horror film screenwriter, stuck in a rut of writing sequel after sequel of PINNED, for her horror-movie-producer ex. This book which shouldn’t exist falls into her lap and River decides she needs to return to Nagano and find out why the book was sent to her and where this search will take her. 

“In a nutshell, River, Diverted is about memory, how it can play tricks on us, introduce characters and events, or change them at will.”

From here we follow River to 1990s Japan, where the past is overlapped with the present. A dark tale is twisted into her memory, a river creature is alive, but not alive, and we meet a cast of characters we won’t soon forget. It is in this middle section of the story that I feel I am not certain which time frame I am reading – past/present/monster/human? Hence, the reason to put the book down. I returned to River, Diverted for the same reason – past/present/monster/human. Where did author Jamie Tennant intend to take me? I decide to allow him to escort me on this journey with him. Giving myself over to Mr. Tennant, I return to Nagano. The story is populated with a battery of Japanese words and phrases, adding authenticity to the setting. It is also frequented with pop culture references, which set a tone to the story. One would expect a horror screenwriter, our protagonist River Black, to be well-versed in such, and have her finger on the pulse of ‘90s pop culture. River stays true to her character and to her search to solve the mystery of the book that should not exist.  It is the story that dragged me back in. The story forced me to become a patient reader and trusting reader.

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When I picked up the book again and committed to the story, I paid close attention to Jamie Tennant’s writing style. Then, I was able to sort through the topsy-turvey time overlay.  In a nutshell, River, Diverted is about memory, how it can play tricks on us, introduce characters and events, or change them at will. How and why this happens with River Black is to be discovered within the pages, with Tennant leading the way. Reality and fantasy are meshed and then disengaged, in a style that is uniquely complex, yet successful in the telling of this story. Tennant serves up a protagonist, with a host of friends, and a mystery that needs your attention to walk through it – muddy river banks and all. Just like the river banks in this story, memory too, can be muddy.  Stories and creatures can appear, people can be flawed or not, and circumstances can change. The ending of River, Diverted by Jamie Tennant is satisfying, when all is made clear between the past/present/monster/human. I trusted this author to deliver, and he did just that. From the book’s back: River, Diverted is a dark fairy tale that explores the trickery of memory, the delicacy of friendship, the nature of creativity and the deliverance of hope.”


About the Author

Jamie Tennant is a writer, author and broadcast(er) director based in Hamilton, ON. He has covered music pop culture both locally and nationally. His debut novel The Captain of Kinnoull Hill was released in 2016. Jamie also hosts the weekly books and literature program/podcast Get Lit.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Palimpsest Press (Oct. 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1990293271
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1990293276

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