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Sabbathday River

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  372 ratings  ·  58 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 1998)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  372 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pleasure-reading
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
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Debra Komar
Nov 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Jana Bouc
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Dec 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Just blech. Couldn't force myself to the 100 page mark. I'm outta here! ...more
Lora Shouse
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There’s so much in here! The Sabbathday River is difficult to categorize. It is partly a murder mystery. Much of it is taken up with gripping courtroom drama. But it is mainly a story of friendship and not-friendship. The difficult choices of friendship, and the bad outcomes of not-friendship.

Though there are several sort-of-main characters, the most central is Naomi Roth. Ten years or so ago, she and her husband came as VISTA volunteers to Goddard Falls, a small town in New Hampshire. Daniel Ro
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Good but not great. Like all of Korelitz's books, I found it slow to start but with a twist at the end that made me glad I kept reading. This is so obviously a modern day telling of the Scarlet Letter: Heather Pratt as Hester Prynne, Ashley DEACON as the minister with whom she has an affair. But I found the debate over morals, ethics, public breastfeeding, and feminism as relevant today as when it was written in 1999, or when it was set in the early 1980s. ...more
Alaina Cyr
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I hope Korelitz got paid per word for this book because it's the only way I can justify the length of this book. The story is told in 5 parts: Parts 1 and 2 are told through Naomi and Heather (respectively), then Parts 3 and 4 retell most of their stories through the investigation and trial. You could remove most of Parts 1 & 2, or Parts 3 & 4 without consequence. I didnt need to be told the plot twice over. The story itself kept me hooked, if I was annoyed by the writing style. ...more
Marianne Wassmer
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1998, set in the early 1980s. You hope it couldn't happen now, but it probably does. A courtroom drama meets The Scarlet Letter. The ending, though disingenuous, really forces you to re-examine everything that came before. ...more
Daniel Bava
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Decent mystery novel. The characters are largely unlikable, but the whodunnit aspect and tense legal drama later in the novel were (barely) worth reading through completion.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, however the ending is far fetched.
Mar 27, 2020 rated it liked it
It took me quite awhile to engage in the characters, then hard to put down at the end. Reminds me of Chris Bohjalians style.
Lynne Block
Hard to get into but interesting story line in the end. A lot of things hard to believe.
Gerry E
Eh tries to be too many different stories for one book. The good parts are interesting the others too much to get through.
Gail M
May 21, 2021 rated it did not like it
I read the number of pages this book should have been if it had been property edited and then gave up. Way too many words.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting. Good writing
Sep 28, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Frank Cardenas
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Original story, slow at times but all in all, I really enjoyed it. I had some issues with the main character as Heather´s coldness was hard to swallow but I guess, given the turns at the end, it all makes sense and she becomes a likeable character. Following that line, I would´ve wanted to have a different ending, like she being the murderer of the second baby so as to justify her careless attitude towards accusations. I loved the double moral issue of women in town as it is a topical issue nowa ...more
Elaine Tama
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
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.
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, feminist
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
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
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
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
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jane Brant
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
An ex-Vista Volunteer discovers the body of a baby in a river, and sets in motion a chain of events that eventually involves an entire community in a heated and often hateful dispute over morality and acceptable behavior -- with extensive good ole boy overtones. In a surprising, though perhaps not so unexpected, twist at the end, the attorney defending the accused woman turns out herself to have been the mother of the dead baby, which she and her husband killed after discovering it had an incura ...more
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Apr 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.

Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Bonnie Sue
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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putting aside the book for now 1 14 Dec 29, 2008 06:10AM  

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Native New Yorker! Graduated from Dartmouth College and Clare College, Cambridge. I'm the author of six novels: THE UNDOING, originally published as YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted by David E. Kelley for HBO and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film of the same name, starring Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin and Paul Rudd), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WH ...more

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