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The River Queen: A Memoir

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  159 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
This story of a middle-aged woman's odyssey down the Mississippi River is a funny, beautifully written, and poignant tale of a journey that transforms a life

In fall 2005 acclaimed travel writer Mary Morris set off down the Mississippi in a battered old houseboat called the River Queen, with two river rats named Tom and Jerry—and a rat terrier, named Samantha Jean, who hate
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 3rd 2013 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2007)
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May 12, 2009 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the fall of 2005, Mary Morris set off down the Mississippi in a battered old house boat called the River Queen. Actually, it's name was the Friend Ship, but it was built by the River Queen company. She traveled with two guides, Tom and Jerry and a rat terrier named Samatha Jean (who was recovering from breast cancer). Morris was at a turning point in her life--her father had just died at 102 and her daughter had just left home for college. In this memoir, Morris returns to the Midwest where s ...more
Jun 15, 2010 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my kind of book - mostly about traveling, on a boat down the Mississipi, (which I will probably never do) with descriptions of people met and towns toured along the way. I was impressed with Morris' willingness to take a trip with two guys she didn't know, on a boat, when she knew nothing about boats, or rivers. It was kind of a jump off the bridge & hope there are not rocks down there...more adventuresome than most people I know. Her stories of her farher are a reminder that our par ...more
Jan 12, 2008 Thebestdogmom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was a true adventure but mostly a passage towards healing after the loss of the authors father.
Nov 05, 2007 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I loved it! It made me want to ride the river as she did in the book.
A few years ago, I went to visit my grandfather in Wisconsin. While there, my grandfather introduced me to his friend, Jerry. Jerry was a really kind man who had a few houseboats, and we got to tour one of them. Jerry told me a story about how an author lady had asked him to take her on a trip down the Mississippi so she could write a book about it. Not too long after I returned home, my grandfather mailed me this book.

I didn't have many expectations for this book (there have been a couple times
Dec 06, 2016 Fayette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this was a slow moving journey (literally) I became somewhat captivated by it. Not the first (nor the last) book I've read about women journeying down rivers, the idea of setting aside all else and taking some time to reflect upon life while doing something fairly absurd--like hiring two men, strangers, to take me down the Mississippi in a rickety houseboat--sounds appealing.
Rusty Henrichsen
This is a travel/finding-self book by a travel book author. Her father died - he had spent a small part of his on the Mississippi, so she is drawn to do a journey down the river in a houseboat. I rated it only three stars because of the extent of the self-examination, self-discovery aspect of the book. I was expecting more travel and thoughts on the people met and places visited.

She visited many of the same places that Georgia and I did this last spring and has many of the same thoughts concerni
Jun 09, 2013 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the idea of traveling by houseboat. I've wanted to do this myself for a long time. So this book was very appealing to me. It was even more interesting because I'm very familiar with a lot of the towns mentioned in the book. What I didn't like about the book was the attitude of the author. She came from New York and had a hoity-toity superior attitude over everyone. No wonder the dog hated her.
Her low opinion of Hannibal and the people there was especially irritating. I wanted to read how
May 25, 2013 Mel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was one those church-basement-used-book-sale purchases that I bought years ago and then never read until now. It pleasantly surprised me. Memoirs and travel stories are two of my favorite types of books, so this was right up my alley. I enjoyed the story; Morris does a good job of making you feel like you're right there. Her personality certainly comes out through her writing, too; you feel her emotions right along with her: her wonder, her annoyances, her trepidation. She did a good job of ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: intrepid-women
I wanted to re-read this book because of our trip down the Great River Road along the Mississippi. However, we did the southern part and this book recounts a northern journey. That might be a plan for us next year. However, Morris' account of Nauvoo, Hannibal, Cairo and St. Louis did not encourage me to follow through. The towns were either deserted or tourist meccas.

This is an odd book in some ways. Morris is deeply mourning the death of her 102 year old father and she incorporates that into h
R J Mckay
Jun 05, 2012 R J Mckay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With the death of her Father and her only child going off to college, Mary Morris is floundering. She needs to ground herself, to return to the river of her youth as well as the river that gave birth to many of her Father's stories. "The River Queen" is about Mary's meandering trip down the Mississippi River, accompanied by Tom and Jerry, the engineer and the captain of the Friend Ship, the houseboat they travel aboard. The trip allows Mary a chance deal with her loss. Along the way she learns t ...more
ellen middlebrook herron
i really, really wanted to love this book. i'm doing research on the mississippi for a project, and i thought this would be a fantastic modern-day account of traveling down the river. but i ended up hating the author. i suppose she could be awarded points for being honest about who she is, in all of her complaining, whiny, self-absorbed, narcissistic glory, but really it just made me hate her. and her personality colored her observations of the river so much that i ended up not even caring all t ...more
Jan 17, 2016 Lynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2015-2016
This book was handed to me at a Historical Society meeting. The pilot of the ramshackle houseboat on which the author traveled grew up in Holmen, the son of one of our members. It a familiar story: a writer coming to terms with the death of a parent while exploring: river, (hawk), personal history. She boards in La Crosse, Wisconsin, just after Katrina hits New Orleans. The river is the main character, beautiful and treacherous. The human life along its banks seemed pretty dismal in general. I f ...more
Nov 29, 2009 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Travelogue of a trip down the Mississippi River in a house boat. The author's 102 year old father has just died and her daughter has gone off to college. This is a trip of self discovery. However, I don't think she discovered anything. At least she didn't share it with us. Travelogue, not memoir. Nothing revealed, not much inner landscape explored, and certainly not a lyrical look at the river. It felt like all she did was complain.
Mar 03, 2015 Coleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Living close to the Ohio River, I've always wanted to take a long boat ride down to the Mississippi-and as a long ago English teacher with years of teaching Huck Finn- I've daydreamed about floating in freedom down the Mississippi.
Thanks to Morris, I lived vicariously on the river with her as she learns how to control the boat and how to face the memories of her father who lived by the river.

Sep 13, 2009 Karla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
Rather tiring to read a travel book that mostly consists of complaints about traveling conditions, tourist traps, and the unenlightened people of the midwest. I guess the author prefers New York, where she is kicked in the stomach by a stranger while walking down the street and needs to take drugs to sleep.
Jan 10, 2015 Kent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have loved this author's travel narratives. Her book 'Beijing to Berlin', and 'Nothing to Declare' were wonderful journals.

This book is set as she sets off from La Crosse WI down the Mississippi River in a houseboat. Its a recount of the experience along the way, the port cities, the solitude on the river, introspection.
Feb 20, 2008 Desiree rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion, a bit boring. I can't believe some of the quotes from other authors on the book saying it was one of the best books they're read! They must have a dreadfully boring life. Maybe I was disappointed in this b/c I've read of more adventurous travelers. Didn't keep my interest or motivate me to read any more of her travel stories.
Nancy Peacock
I love river books, and I love houseboats, but in reading I also love a transformation or change of some sort in the character (in this case - memoir - in the author) and I like a little tension. Mostly this read a bit of a lazy float. I enjoyed it, but can't highly recommend it, and there were times it got a little tedious.
Dec 17, 2008 Judy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was underwhelmed. Morris was ill-prepared [in every way] for this trip in a houseboat along the Upper Mississippi. She spends a lot of time processing/mourning the death of her 102-year-old father and her daughter's going to college. I wanted to tell her to get over it. Her complaints and condescension overshadowed any beauty in writing, which was minimal anyway. No breath-taking prose.
Dec 03, 2007 Renee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. Mary Morris writes about a journey down the Mississippi river in a house boat navigated by two sea men she just met and hired for the trip. I belived Mary has another non fiction book about traveling from Berlin to China almost all by rail that I will mark to read.
Aug 21, 2007 Sue rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book reads like 'oh I am going to take a river trip so I can write about all the weird people I meet and all the strange things that happen to me so everyone can see how cool and enlightened I am'. I couldn't make it past the first chapter.
Jul 31, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not bad -- another "I took an epic journey and learned something about myself" travelogue. That's OK -- one of my favorite genres, actually. I did cringe slightly at how she demeaned Midwesterners based more on accents, fashion and food than on their actual beliefs.
Nov 30, 2008 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

I'd go on a difficult trip with her because she has tenacity and perseverance.
Only problem is, I think she likes to suffer.
Guess suffering goes with the territory; of exploring.
Linda Carver
Jun 06, 2007 Linda Carver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
True story of a writer's trip down the Mississippi River as she tries to come to grips with her father's death.
Jennifer Miera
Feb 27, 2010 Jennifer Miera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
I'm really liking this book and if I wasn't so scared of big water, I'd think about taking a journey with my family on a houseboat. What a unique experience.
Oct 14, 2009 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About half way through this memoir - a great story of a trip down the Mississippi River on a houseboat. Reads more like fiction than non-fiction.
Allison Frederick
This was a fun book. The author travels down the Mississippi on a house boat with some unlikely companions. She is a great travel writer. I read Nothing to Declare a long time ago.
Rose Anderson
Mar 10, 2016 Rose Anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A travel writer goes down the Mississippi via houseboat to come to terms with her 102-year-old father's death and her own less than ideal childhood.
Karen Snyder
A delightful little mind must be thinking traveling again. Although, I don't think I have much desire to rent a boat and travel down the Mississippi with two complete strangers.
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I was born in Chicago and, though I have lived in New York for many years, my roots are still in the Midwest and many of my stories are set there. As a writer my closest influences are Willa Cather and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I travel as much as I can and travel fuels everything I do. When I travel, I keep extensive journals which are handwritten and include watercolors, collage as well as text. All ...more
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