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The Banks of Certain Rivers

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  779 ratings  ·  235 reviews
In the Michigan resort town of Port Manitou, dedicated teacher and running coach Neil Kazenzakis shoulders responsibilities that would break a lesser man: a tragic accident has left his wife seriously debilitated, he cares for his mother-in-law who suffers from dementia, and he’s raising his teenage son, Chris, on his own. On top of all that, he’s also secretly been seeing ...more
Kindle Edition, 331 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Jon Harrison
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Catherine McKenzie
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that he had seen a "perfect" movie. I asked him what he meant, and he said that, for him, a perfect movie was one that couldn't have been any better than it was. This didn't mean it was the best movie he had ever seen, but that as he watched it and thought about it afterwards, he couldn't think of anything he wanted to change.

That's how I feel about The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison.

The book is the story of one man's struggle to rebuild
...more
Angela M
Jon Harrison in his debut novel does not drag things out. In the beginning he delves right into the tragedy that struck this family and then right into the event that causes unimaginable problems for high school teacher and coach, Neil Katzenzakis. I really couldn't put this down and read it in one day .

The crux story of the story for me is the tragedy that befalls this family and how Neil and his son Chris are trying to cope with the loss of a wife and mother who lays in a bed at a long term ca
...more
Buggy
Opening line: "One humid night at the beginning of summer, while jetliners rambled overhead and fireflies winked green along the far off row of brambles, my best friend and I sat by the fire pit along the far-off row of brambles behind my house.”

~4.5~ Wow what a fantastic find Jon Harrison’s debut novel turned out to be. Just an all-round great read that I was sorry to finish as by the end I’d grown so attached to all the characters, I felt like I knew them, like they were friends of mine and I
...more
Rebecca Foster
A strong debut, reminiscent of Garth Stein and John Irving. Neil Kazenzakis, a physics teacher and cross-country coach in Michigan’s Lakes region, has a rather complicated family life. An accident on vacation left his wife, Wendy, in a vegetative state, and his mother-in-law, Carol, receives dementia care in her home. Meanwhile, Neil has been carrying on a secret relationship with one of Carol’s nurses, Lauren. Now that Lauren is pregnant, he has to find a way of telling his teenage son Chris – ...more
Bethany Clark
I have recently joined a great book club, One Book One Facebook, and this was our first piece.
Where do I begin, I loved every moment of this book from beginning to end.
The story takes place in the Town of Port Manitou, centering around the life of Neil Kazenzakis. He has been through a lot - a major accident with his wife, raising a teenage son on his own, taking care of his mother in law whom has dementia along with many other events in his current day life.
He is amazing coach and teacher and
...more
Melissa
This was not my usual type of book and I don't know that I would have picked it up, had it not come recommended by others with similar tastes. In any case, I thought it was very interesting and compelling. The characters popped right off the pages and I could easily visualize them, as well as the settings around them. The story went in places I did not expect it to go. I wanted to hide my eyes when all the craziness started because it was all so much and so heavy. I also wanted to read on to see ...more
Lynne
I loved this book. I was hooked within the first page... and as I continued to read I started to care about each and every character: not just the protagonist, but also the secondary characters as well. This is a story about love, loss, adjustments, shocks, personal growth and challenges ... it's about life. It's about relationships. Father - son. Best friends. Lovers. Young love. Family. It covers it all ... without being forced or seem out of place. It's honest and tender. If you loved "One Da ...more
Sabrina-kate Eryou
This book was just AMAZING! I read it in one day, which having a newborn was quite a feat. But I literally could not put it down so luckily she slept quite a bit. ;)

I can't believe that this was only published as an ebook. And that this book is not an international bestseller. It is absolutely the entirely gripping type of story that I just LOVE. Amazing descriptions and the characters were well developed.

Everyone should read this book - seriously!
Sandra Heinzman
I read this book with the One Group One Facebook online book club at Facebook. It was a 4 star book for me; I reserve 5 stars for books which I think are really outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It was very well-written and a good story. It is written by a man and is from a man’s point of view, which is interesting to me, for this type of book. There are a number of issues that this book deals with: loss, love, being a single father, defending oneself against an accusations by high sc ...more
Julie
This book was recommended to me by another reader on Goodreads. If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can check it out of the Kindle Owners Library for free.

This isn't the kind of book I usually read. It's emotional, evocative and poignant and it moves like an old river. In spite of that, I really liked the book. It's very well written and meets all my criteria for an excellent book.

The storytelling, told from the first-person point of view of Neil Kazenzakis, pulls the reader in. The first
...more
phyllis
A surprise find after reading a good review is "The Banks of Certain Rivers". Exceptional character development, nicely paced story that reveals backstory in a natural way. Several unexpected twists and a satisfying ending that was logical and well earned. Narrative and dialogue had the feel of a James Frey book (as if I care that his books were fiction) that pulls you along with the story. The story builds a bit slowly after the prologue, but stay with it, it's worth it.
Barbra
The Banks Of Certain Rivers is by far the best book I have read this year! It was recommended to me by another Goodread friend. Harrison's storytelling of one man's struggles is outstanding! This book truly does make me want to finish that book I have started!! I highly recommend you read this one!!
Mira
Look, it's not offensively bad or anything, but I am frankly surprised that the average rating for this book is so high. I got a review copy through a group book review blog and was stymied on whether I should review it (honestly) negatively or keep quiet. So I sat on it for a while. Now that I see that it's getting a generally positive reception, I don't feel bad about throwing my opinion out there.

The big climax is just not credible. I'll try to critique without spoiling, but basically this is
...more
Allison Cicchetti
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading The Banks of Certain Rivers but from the moment I started, I connected to Neil Kazenzakis and his world. Like many of us, Neil is trying to cope with the memories of his past, a present that finds him hiding from a real chance at happiness, and a future that is slowly coming apart and is very uncertain.

There are moments in this book that grabbed me and shook me. If you have a loved one who is living in an assisted living facility, or who benefi
...more
Carrie
This book was recommended to me by a complete stranger on Facebook. My friend from Twitter directed me to the recommendation, but I had no reason to really go through with it. I mean, I have 5728 unread books on my bedside table.
Truthfully, I didn't even know what this book was about. I just bought it. Then, I read the first chapter and, to sound like a total cliche girl, I TOTALLY COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I could feel something monumental building from the beginning. At first I thought it was th
...more
Barbara White
THE BANKS OF CERTAIN RIVERS is a multi-layered, addictive read with many twists and turns. It's hard to categorize--which I love. The beautiful writing of the prologue suggests literary fiction, but once the action kicks in, it becomes a fast-paced, commercial page-turner. Yes, this is family drama, but I would also label the novel mainstream fiction, suspense, and even women's fiction. I loved the inclusion of the emails, which are a fascinating plot device to reveal the hero's emotional core. ...more
Suzanne
I LOVED this book! It was a recommendation from the Goodreads Group, "Bet we can Make these Books Bestsellers," and it should be a bestseller! The story of Neil K. and his family has so many layers, it is a rich and deeply told story that is both interesting and engaging. In the four days it took me to read the book, I was hardly able to put it down!
R.J. Lynch
I’m glad this book was recommended to me and I’m glad I bought it. I’m giving it three stars and not four and maybe I’m being unfair because I’m influenced in the rating by the fact that I had no empathy with the protagonist – he wasn’t, I suppose, ‘my kind of man’ and there were times when he really irritated me. He was far too passive in the face of unacceptable provocation and at crucial moments when he needed to defend the position of the woman he loved he failed to do so. Of course you coul ...more
Vox
4.5 stars

At one point in this book, Neil Kazenzakis says that he's been broken before, so when he's broken again, he knows he can - he will - survive.

But who can blame him for wondering how much more he will be expected to sustain?

His beloved wife lies in a quasi-vegetative state, having survived - if you can call it that - a horrible accident witnessed by the couple's only child, Christopher. Now in his late teens, Christopher bears the guilt of not being allowed to help his mother, and he also
...more
Laysee
The unexpected happens and life changes in an instant. How do people cope with loss? How do they hold their lives together? When and how do they move on? What does it mean to love? What are the limits to love, if any? In “The Banks of Certain Rivers”, Jon Harrison grapples with these questions with big-hearted tenderness.

Neil Kazenzakis, a popular high school teacher, “lost” his wife (Wendy) in a freak accident. His life spun out of control and he was cruelly confronted with the anguish of miss
...more
Larry Hoffer
Is it possible for your life to be simultaneously simple and complicated? Just ask affable high school teacher Neil Kazenzakis. After struggling for a number of years following the freak accident that left his wife in a vegetative state and made him sole caregiver of his son, Christopher, the two have a strong bond, and Neil is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for Christopher's future as he prepares to graduate from high school.

Neil is well-liked by his students and fellow teachers
...more
Shannon Knight
So this book came highly recommended by one of my favorite writers. And it turns out that there were just too many things about it that bugged me for me to really enjoy it. A lot of the main character's "issues" weren't based in reality and were therefore non-issues (How will he afford care for his wife in a coma if he loses his job? Well, he has offers on his property for a ton of money; he has wealthy family members. How will he afford a legal defense if he gets sued? Um, that's what your pers ...more
Reads4Pleasure
Real life is really messy. If anyone knows that, Neil Kazenzakis does. Up until the day his wife is injured in a life altering event, Neil would have sworn he had the perfect life. A perfect wife, a perfect son, a job that wasn't his first choice but still enjoyable, good in laws and great neighbors made for a fairly enjoyable life. And then things got messy.

When Neil married Wendy, he had no idea that one day he'd be raising their son, Christopher, as a single parent. He also had no way of know
...more
Itsjustme-wendy
So many emotions went through me when I was reading this book. I went from sadness, pity, anger, worry, and finally acceptance that he was doing the right thing. I wasn't so sure how I felt about the whole thing in the beginning - your wife is basically a vegetable in a home and you are sleeping with someone else? This just didn't sit well with me at first. But once I learned the people and what was in their hearts and learned more about the situation... I did come to accept it, totally surprisi ...more
Teena in Toronto
Neil, his wife, Wendy, and their son, Chris, were on vacation when tragedy strikes ... Wendy gets caught at the bottom of a pool. About five years later, Wendy is in long term care, not responsive. Carol, Wendy's mother, isn't well and lives next door to Neil and Chris ... Neil oversees her care with nurses. Neil has had a secret relationship with one of those nurses, Lauren, for the last two years. When Lauren discovers she is pregnant, Neil knows he has to tell his son what's going on but he i ...more
Thien-Kim
Every good book has a point of no return. It’s when the story becomes so engrossing, when the characters start living and breathing in your imagination, and when you can see their pain as well as your best friend’s longing. Last night I reached the point of no return for The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison. It was 1AM, but I kept reading. I could not stop until I was sure that my new friends, the novel’s characters, ached no more. Or ached less.

In The Banks of Certain Rivers, our narrato
...more
Crystal Spence
I just finished reading this AMAZING book!!! All I can say is WOW! What a GREAT first novel! Right from the first two pages I was sucked in. I read through this all in one night. It was heart wrenching at times, and at other times,funny. It was filled with Neil's soul searching and his LIFE. I loved this family and my heart went out to Neil. With all of his incredible struggles things worked out in the end as he knew they would. I literally laughed at things and then would cry, there were so man ...more
Pauline Tilbe
I happened upon this book, recommended by another author. So glad she told me about it. It's an unusual read for me. I'll admit I read a lot of chick lit, not the fluff stuff but primarily the books I read are by female authors. The second thing is the primary character is male, also different for me.
The beginning of the story takes time to set up all the issues, the background of Neil's relationship with Wendy and how he managed in the years since Wendy's accident.
Unbelievable emotion is reveal
...more
Sonja Yoerg
This book was my in-flight entertainment on a seven-hour plane trip. I put it down to watch The Book Thief (great movie adaptation!), then finished it. It's smartly-paced and as easy to consume as an open bag of chips. Neil, the main character, is an appealing hero, though I did half expect him to be darker than he appeared. His wife is in a persistent vegetative state and the loss of her, even years later, has left him on shaky ground despite a wealth of loving relationships, including that wit ...more
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52 weeks, 52 books: Week 2014.39: The Banks of Certain Rivers 7 55 Jan 16, 2015 05:59AM  
Novice Reader Loves This Book 1 8 Oct 18, 2014 07:17AM  
52 weeks, 52 books: Week 16: The Banks of Certain Rivers 69 155 Aug 14, 2014 04:14PM  
Make a book a bes...: April Read: The Banks of Certain Rivers 26 43 Aug 03, 2013 11:47AM  
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A native of the midwest, Jon Harrison currently lives and writes in the Northern Rockies.

You can learn more about him at www.thebanksofcertainrivers.com.
More about Jon Harrison...

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“What is a memory, anyway? Is it an indelible record, unimpeachable, frozen in some synaptic arrangement and stored away for some moment it might be needed in the future? Or is it subject to editing and revision, something plastic that our brains can shape into another form we can handle, something less toxic than the original, something less able to poison us?” 8 likes
“I start to run, and my nose fills with the smell of rain and wet earth. I run along the shoulder of the highway in an easy rhythm, and the rain gathers up on my forehead and eyebrows; it flows down my face, it drips from the tip of my nose. There is wet dirt, a puddle in the gravel, new grass pushing through old in the ditch. Violets grow along the edge of the road. To my right, the Little Jib River flows brown and swollen to the lake. The water moves ceaselessly, and I move along with it. To my left, across the road, the rain strips wilted cherry blossoms from the rows and rows of trees, and drops them to the ground.” 6 likes
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