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River of Heaven River of Heaven River of Heaven

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  316 ratings  ·  74 reviews
You have to know the rest of my story, the
part I can't yet bring myself to say. A story
of a boy I knew a long time ago and a
brother I loved and then lost."
Past and present collide in Lee Martin's highly anticipated novel of a man, his brother, and the dark secret that both connects and divides them. Haunting and beautifully wrought, River of Heaven weaves a story of lo
ebook, 0 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by Shaye Areheart Books
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Will Byrnes
What can I tell her about mistakes, about the things we shouldn’t have done? They’re ours forever. We carry them just under our skin, the scars of our living.
Ripped from the headlines. Lee Martin came across an article in his wife's hometown newspaper about a man who had made his pooch a doghouse that looked like a sailboat, and wondered what sort of person might do that. That was the beginning. The man he imagines is Sam Brady, 65, closeted, lonely living in the town of Mount Gilead. In the bib
I had not read anything by Lee Martin, Pulitzer Prize Finalist for the book The Bright Forever, until this book and now I know what an amazing talent I've been missing.

River of Heaven is a bittersweet, moving novel about loneliness, forgiveness and how we touch each others lives without even knowing it. The central character is 65 year old Sam Brady who lives alone with his dog,sometimes going years without someone so much as touching him. Whether this is a self imposed exile or a societal one i
I suppose that if I couldn't put down the book, it has to have 4 stars, at least, no? And this is one I couldn't stop reading, once I'd started. It's got engaging, sympathetic characters. Now, some of these characters could easily slide into stereotypes (the young teenage girl, essentially abandonded and abused, teetering on the edge of "bad girl," but with a heart of gold; the elderly widower who doesn't know quite what to do with himself; the elderly gay man who's been alone since a tragedy in ...more
This is a wonderfully written novel about a dark secret held by Sam and Cal Brady for 50 years; a secret that connects them and yet has alienated them for decades. This is a secret Sam Brady cannot bring himself to talk about and yet it has been at the heart of how he has lived his life ever since that evening in 1955 when Sam's 15-year-old best friend Dewey Finn died.
Like a beach ball held under water, the truth just can't be held down any longer no matter how hard yu try to keep that "secret"
A beautiful novel set in a small town in the Midwest (southern Illinois), narrated in the gentle, humble voice of a 65-year-old lifelong resident of the town. He has lived a life of isolation and loneliness ever since a devastating incident cost the life of a boy he loved, the secret details of which he shares only with his older brother, who has disappeared from his life, only to reappear early on in the novel, bringing yet another devastating secret with him. (Our narrator learns of his brothe ...more
This was an unusual story for me but a highly enjoyable one. There is a little mix of family drama, mystery, conspiracy and an unusual love story in the recipe as well.

Our narrator is a 65yo bachelor with a host of personal insecurities that are later explained. Despite the age differences, if any, most any can relate to Brady and how we tend to second guess ourselves. Brady's story also exposes how unhealthy living a life totally alone can be.

The supporting characters are a big help in moving
I have no idea how to rate this book. It was one I gladly gave up sleep for to finish but there was so much I didn't like about the story. In particular, there is one scene that involves a gun and hostages and a sleep-walking child. WTF?

Still, I have to admit that I couldn't wait to finish it and there were some nice surprises in the end. I'm going to go with 3 1/2 stars and round up to 4. And I am definitely going to read the author's "The Bright Forever."
Tara Trainor
Lee Martin did an incredible job of making his characters come alive. They became my friends. I loved the underlying mystery to it all and cried and laughed with each chapter. I also liked and cared for each character. I really enjoyed this book!!!!
Surprisingly great read....not a book I would have picked up but a friend of mine read it and liked it....I am glad I read it as well. Will read other books written by Lee Martin!
Gripping story about the yearning for close relationships, the inescapable effects they have on us, and how we pull each other through the events in our lives.
Doreen Fritz
I like this mystery for its setting: small town in southern Illinois, and for its characters, who are not trite nor one-dimensional, but rather not-all-revealed. The main character, Sam, is 65, a man who has kept to himself all his life and has been estranged from his family since an incident in his teens when his friend Dewey Finn died. That death is the lynchpin for this tale, and explains Sam's whole life. In the course of this novel, Sam begins to rejoin the world through the efforts of his ...more
1/7/11 -- I still have 94 pages to go and I'm already giving *River of Heaven* five stars. It's the second of Lee Martin's books that I've recently read, and I'm going to read them all. This man is a consumate and merciful storyteller; *River of Heaven* has been tugging at my heart since page one. I gave *The Bright Forever* four stars; one of my friends asked me why and I had no answer. Now I do: *River of Heaven* is to my eye, even more a universal story. In *The Bright Forever*, at least one ...more
Russ Jarvis
I heard Lee Martin at the Midwest Writers' Workshop in Muncie, IN this July and knew I wanted to get into his writing. This is not the kind of book that I normally read, but after reading it I wonder why I wouldn't. I quickly cared about the characters and the small town setting he created. I also came to care about my own life in a deeper and more hopeful way. I saw it as a great treatment of how one's spirituality develops and deforms in relationship with other people.

Martin's writing style is
Kaye McSpadden
I guess I would have to say that overall, I enjoyed this book, but there were a couple of things that annoyed me so much, I can't recommend it.

The main thing is, it was told in first person. Now, I admit that I'm already biased because generally speaking, I don't care for first-person narratives, but sometimes it works fine. Sometimes, in fact, a story NEEDS to be told in first person. This one didn't. There were several interesting characters in this story who I would have liked to get to know
Laura Belgrave
It's been a while since I've read anything mainstream -- or what I regard as mainstream -- and I'm so glad that my return to it was with this novel by Lee Martin. (I won't bore you with a plot summary; you can read that anywhere.)

Anyway, oh, sure, the story is a little sappy toward the end. Martin didn't need to express exactly what his main character had learned to the degree that he did. I could've figured that out all by myself. But the rest of the story was so rich with emotion, a plain but
Good book. Even though Sam has a dark secret from his past that has kept him isolated from the human race, the book is ultimately about how he finds his way back into the flow of life. There's Dewey Finn who died a tragic death and there's Cal, Sam's brother, who has spent his whole life running away from that death. But then there's Enis McMeanus: "I like your dog." "Oh, for a world of days like this and one Enis McMeanus after another." (p. 162) And there's Stump: "The sight of Stump, ambling ...more
3 stars might be generous, soo many weaknesses in this book.
Really awful character development over the course of the book. Maddie was especially poorly drawn, but Cal and Arthur too.
The gun play series of events involving Howard Zwilling was so forced and contrived that I nearly gave up on the book then, not caring any more about the Dewey Finn saga. The end was rushed and less meaningful than would be expected.
I liked the ideas behind this book but it was poorly executed.
Mr. Martin runs the
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debra Morris
I did not like this as much as the bright forever but still an excellent book. The author captures the utter loneliness of the main character brilliantly. He also depicts,via Sam, what it means to come of age in 1955 as a gay man convincingly and how cruel his peers and family members were at the time.
Another truly outstanding book from Lee Martin. I loved River of Heaven, and I think it's because his characters, once again, are so wonderfully complex but still seem completely real. Also, I noticed that, again, Martin masterfully repeats a single phrase, a refrain if you will, to keep the emotional back story present in the reader's head at all times--in this book, it's two of the main characters who say, "You asleep?" to anyone who does something out of the ordinary, a shorthand comment cult ...more
A common tale story with a dark side. This perfectly describes how someone can overcome past mistakes that forever inform their lives. Impressive.
Curt Falls a Angie Falls
Thought provoking

One of my favorite authors!! His stories always pull me in & I can't put them down! I highly recommend!
M.P. Cooley
This book did a wonderful job of immersing me in the life of Sam Brady and the world he lives in, filled with elderly (or nearly elderly) people trying to keep connected to each other and the world, even as death comes closer for them all. I cared deeply for all his characters, and you see how these people's hard won wisdom have made them through today, for better and for worse. My only quibble are the young people: Martin captures the voices and quirks of the older generation perfectly, but his ...more
An intriguing story...I liked the way it was told and, being told by an old man, I thought it was told very well/believeable/true to that character's age. Whatever, I loved it. Not a topic I've ever read about. And lots of good intertwining w/characters and not how I thought it'd turn out. And I still liked it. It has a strong underyling message are responsible for your actions, and you live with your decisions...and maybe forgiving oneself vs. wanting others forgiveness is what will b ...more
Ami Stearns
Lee Martin's "Bright Forever" is one of my all-time favorite books, and I was so looking forward to reading this one! It fell far short of my expectations. Martin's writing is subtle and evocative, but the plot? Sort of a murder mystery, with homeland terrorism, lots of dead people...I wasn't compelled by it, but pushed through to the end by speed-reading. He used kind of a tired plot: old man finds new life when young, vivacious teenage girl moves in...I rated it as "ok" because I like his writ ...more
Sandy D.
A rather suspenseful novel about a closeted old gay man living in a small town in Illinois, and what happened to one of his best friends fifty years ago, and what his brother has been up to since they were estranged.

It was very good, very spot-on in the descriptions of the town (white squirrels, like Olney, IL!) and townsfolk. The only thing I really didn't like was the title - when I finally figured out where it came from, at the end of the book, I thought it didn't fit in well with the rest of
This was a well written story which goes from present time to past and ties the two together beautifully throughout the story. I enjoyed each part of this book and the lead up to what ultimately happens is excellent. I did not see it coming. I was never ready for the way the story changed direction. I loved the main character in this story. I loved the dog, the teenager, everyone. I don't want to retell the story, there is enough of that here, but I would recommend this book.
Andy Katin
The story was compelling. It focused on an older gay man who has been alone all his life due to the impact of a childhood event and how his solitude and repression of the past starts to unravel. My disappointment was the well written plot was not matched by the thoughts and inner life of the main character. Attention to this was sorely lacking and the book lost the poignancy that was needed given the subject matter.
May 10, 2009 Gloria rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Men especially
Shelves: contemporary-lit
A lot of lonely, isolated people in this book who begin to form tenuous relationships. The main character is a gay man who has lived with this fact in secret for 60+ years; but he has another bigger secret, too.

Filled with themes of longing, regrets, family members who disappoint one another, loss, and more which are collectively rather dark themes, yet there is also a glimpse of hope and redemption, too.
The story was about a man who looks back at his past and the mistakes he made. Sammy finds a satisfying life with his neighbor Arthur and his dog. They build a grand dog house and end up local celebrities as they are featured in a human interest story in the town's local newspaper. Life starts to unravel when Sammy's older brother comes back to town after many years of being away.
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Lee Martin is the author of the novels, The Bright Forever, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; River of Heaven; Quakertown; and Break the Skin. He has also published three memoirs, From Our House and Turning Bones, and Such a Life. His first book was the short story collection, The Least You Need To Know. He is the co-editor of Passing the Word: Writers on Their Mentors. His fictio ...more
More about Lee Martin...
The Bright Forever Break the Skin From Our House Quakertown Such a Life

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