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Sabbathday River

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  250 ratings  ·  44 reviews
When Naomi Roth pulls the body of a stabbed infant girl from the Sabbathday River, she precipitates an investigation that devastates the small New Hampshire town she hoped to save. Smart and engrossing, this thriller addresses the complex morality behind its characters' behavior with gravity and deep humanity. Idealistic Vista volunteer and New York Jewish liberal in searc ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Jove (first published April 12th 1999)
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Sara Steger
Naomi Roth is jogging beside the Sabbathday River and finds a dead baby face down in the water. She pulls it out, wraps it in a handmade sampler and carries it to the police station. Thus begins a mystery that shows up the worst of a small town full of prejudices and exclusion.

I do not generally read modern mysteries. For the most part they leave me cold or I find them predictable. This book, however, was more about the psychology of the characters to me, with the mystery hanging out there like
Debra Komar
I am officially giving up on this author. I have read (endured) three of her books and the problems are consistent throughout - grossly overwritten and poorly edited. Page after page of pseudopsychoanalysis of the characters and ludicrous descriptions of settings. I was thirty pages in and could sum up the plot in one sentence. The rest was just very painful filler.

For example, here is the first sentence of chapter 5:

"To a New Englander, the northern hardwoods' annual shedding of their chloroph
I don't know why but I usually shy away from mysteries. My friend Elaine recommended this one and I'm glad I tried it, as it had a hold on me from page 1, with Naomi out jogging and finding a baby floating in the river. Instead of calling the authorities, she wrapped the baby in one of her cooperative worker's hand-made alphabet linen samplers and brought the body to the police station where she found herself being interrogated. Naomi's considered an outsider, since she and her husband came to t ...more
One of the best legal/mystery books I've ever read. Very much character/psychology driven, with great plots twists some interesting philosophizing, and the best part: I'm almost to the end of the book and I still have no clue "who done it." I also really like that the three main characters, all women, are imperfect, especially the defendant who, unusual in this kind of book, is rather pathetic and even unlikable, making it even more mysterious.
I picked this book up from the library because I really enjoyed Admission - the newest novel by the same author. Sabbathday River was written 10 years before Admission, and it's easy to see how the author has grown and improved. I don't know that if I had read this one first I would have run to read the new one.

A baby is found floating in the river and a suspect is immediately found. Although a local girl, Heather has been an outsider in her own community, so there are few people who support her
This was a well written, intricate tale of murder, love, lust, and life in a small town. A dead baby is found in the Sabbathday River and the hunt is on for the killer. Then, another dead baby shows up and things get interesting. It was slow getting into it, but once the author started including dialog between characters, the story flew. Definitely want to read more of her books.
An engaging and twisty legal mystery that begins with the discovery of a dead baby in a river. Things get complicated when a second infant is found. How are they related and who committed such heinous murders? The plot is not particularly difficult to figure out and a bit unbelievable, but still enjoyable.
Elaine Tama
Ts is really a first-rate mystery novel, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Set in a small New Hampshire town in current times, it hearkens back to Scarlet Letter days, with the main character, Heather Pratt, similar to Hester in the Scarlet Letter. The book opens with Naomi Roth, a transplanted New Yorker who has moved to New Hampshire and opened up a women's cooperative enterprise, finding a murdered baby in the river. All eyes in the community are on Heather Pratt, as she has violated all of the no ...more
I wish there was a way to rate this 2.5 stars. I didn't always like it. There was a decent mystery, and it was literary in the sense that characters were dealing with their issues, the philosophies, their religion in addition to dealing with the plot. The writing was good. However, there were some aspects of the story that I found unbelievable to the point of almost ruining it for me. In particular I found the resolution of the mystery frustrating. Also, one of the main characters is supposed to ...more
Lisa H.
I read a lot of murder mysteries, usually of the subgenre called "police procedurals", and I think I'd been pretty well submerged in those at the time I picked this one up. It turned out to be quite a surprise. It's more about how a small town reacts to people who don't conform, than actually about a murder and bringing a criminal to justice. One of the best parts is the exploration of a college-educated "outsider"'s attempt to bring her feminist values to the town's women, and how that affects ...more
This woman is such an intelligent writer, and she spins a damn good observational yarn. Totally engaging and although I personally wouldn't call it a thriller, it is.
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
An interesting exploration of small town mentality bound with a grisly mystery this book explores a lot of issues. It makes for intriguing reading but sometimes there is almost too much and it slows the momentum of the book, dragging a little in a places. Its a little reminiscent of the Scarlet Letter with a more modern setting.
I found it compelling though, I cared about what would happen. The ending was a little bit of a cop out in terms of Judith's confession I think I would rather that that p
I read this page-turner for my book club and, thankfully, there are discussion-worthy legal, medical, and social issues. However, the novel, set in the mid 1980s and published in 1999, feels dated.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book was intriguing from the very first page; I could hardly put it down once I started it. I have always loved murder mysteries, and this is by far the best one I have ever read. It is nearly impossible to not comisserate with Naomi throughout the discovery of the first baby and everything that follows. I have also known an Ashley or two and respect Heather for the strength she demonstrates after her life unravels.Every part of this book was amazing! I have already insisted that several of ...more
This was such a well written story, but was at times very painful to read. This book makes you look at your own moral compass as you consider the characters and their situations.
Jane Brant
A pleasant surprise since I knew nothing about the author or the content of the book until I began reading. While this is basically a mystery set in a small town area of New Hampshire, there is a thick layer of "women's issues" addressed throughout as well as a "growing up" of idealistic, "hippy", tree hugging types who thought they'd change the world. Also, I liked that all the characters are "flawed" in one way or another, and so it becomes very difficult of be judgmental of what is moral or t ...more
What a wonderful combination of superb characterizations and page-turning mystery. Korelitz's descriptions of the characters are so real that you are inside their heads...even if you don't want to be. The dynamics of the community, the thoughts and actions of the characters, the unexpected discoveries...all make you forget you are reading. You are there. I found myself angry, sad, chilled, frustrated, puzzled. Every time you think you grasp the whole picture another small piece is revealed, caus ...more
Cheryl Lee
Serious subject matter....a little upsetting.
November 2002
Considering this is a novel, and the author could have written any story she wanted, it is beyond me why she made this up. It is simply horrible.

I will say the writing was good, and there are some important issues addressed in the book. However, I was turned off at the very beginning and continued to read it only because it was the first book I was to read for a new book group. I have since quit that book group and joined another.

Young, naive Heather Pratt scandalized the town of Goddard, New Hampshire by having an affair with a married man. When a murdered newborn baby was found in the Sabbathday River, the whole town accused Heather. The only two people who stood up for her were Naomi, a woman who came to town ten years before as an idealistic volunteer for VISTA, and Judith, an attorney who had just moved into town with her husband. Good book.
Wendy Diamond
Intriguing psychological mystery. We already know the crime and can surmise some of the reasons, but it gets complicated as the characters reveal themselves. There were some stereotypes and situations that were locked into time&place, but it is a page-turner story. The courtroom scenes are suspenseful -- the reader is left waiting for the next revelation just like the judge, jury and townspeople. Fun read.
I like this book enough to have read it several times, but I think it has a few problems. Some of the side plots that impact the main storyline seem a little farfetched, and I really didn't like really like the outcome as far as the trial went and the punishments for the murderers. It also made me aware of and pique my interest in Jewish genetics & some of the disorders they are at a higher risk of.
Bonnie Sue
Crime novel plus big discussions of feminism,oppression of women,and the double standard; the iniquities of the justice system and the death of 1960's idealism. I enjoyed the book, at times during these discussions of the Big Issues it got a little already let's just solve the crimes. Who did kiled the two newborn infants. Lots of twists, excellent book.
EXCELLENT from start to finish. A modern day homage to the Scarlet Letter. Exquisitely written. Incredible plotting. Passages of sheer genius. Finally, a writer who can write realistic court room scenes in a great novel.

This book was written in 1999 and seems to be hard to find. Purchase a used copy if you must or check your library.
Terry Roice
I enjoyed the psychological aspects of Sabbathday River. The mystery unravels slowly, culminating in a surprise ending. The characters are complicated but realistic. It is not an action packed thriller, but it is worth reading.
A surprising book and I really liked it.
It's a shame it didn't get better publicity or promotion, it probably didn't get the attention it deserved because of it.
If you come across this little gem, have a read!
Sep 22, 2011 Pam rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women
Very good. Interesting mystery, legal drama, women's rights, small town prejudices in the 50's. Can't find my copy but really want to read again to refresh my memory so may rebuy or borrow from the library.
Rebecca Allen
This is a riveting, emotional story and I even though I read it years ago, I have never forgotten it. I recently found it at a book sale and bought it, because it is one of those books worth having.
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putting aside the book for now 1 11 Dec 29, 2008 06:10AM  
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