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River, Cross My Heart

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3.47  ·  Rating details ·  11,923 Ratings  ·  263 Reviews
The acclaimed bestseller--a selection of Oprah's Book Club--that brings vividly to life the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, circa 1925, a community reeling from a young girl's tragic death.

Five-year-old Clara Bynum is dead, drowned in the Potomac River in the shadow of a seemingly haunted rock outcropping known locally as the Three Sisters. River, Cross My Hear
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Paperback, 245 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by Back Bay Books (first published July 1st 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Tony
Nov 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jamila
The first thing to know about this book is that it basically has no plot -- it's more a series of loosely connected vignettes that, when taken as whole, combine to give the reader an impression of African-American life in the 1920s in a particular neighborhood in Washington, D.C. So, while the book does open with a beautifully rendered chapter in which the 12-year-old protagonist's sister drowns in the Potomac river, that tragedy doesn't lead to the kind of linear story with clear resolution man ...more
Maya
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
I almost gave River, Cross My Heart one star, but decided that since I actually bothered to finish it, it deserved more than that.

The book is about the impact of a little girl's drowning on her family, notably her big sister. It's a bit like a coming of age story, we follow the big sister through her preteen years and see how the family deals with the loss of their youngest daughter as well as the surviving daughter's changing ways.

The idea seemed like it could work, but the lack of dialogue ma
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Carolyn
Dec 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
although the setting was intriguing and I learned some things about the history and culture of the time, the writing was so mediocre, I didn't even finish this one...
Lucinda Porter
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an incredible book. Beautiful story-telling and deftly written. If you liked "The Help" or "The Secret Life of Bees" you will probably like this.
Dux
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: realistic
I really, really, really, really wished the whole damn book was like its first chapter, its beautiful and haunting first chapter. It feels as though the whole story isn't coherent, I mean after a while it becomes fairly obvious that it is a story about the community and it doesn't actually have a plot of some sort but still, it still couldn't been great if it had focused on the characters more.

It didn't need to have a plot. Plot isn't necessary for a great novel. However, the community aspec
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Holly
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
I just couldn't get into River Cross My Heart. The story opens with the tragic death of a young girl, and the following plot always comes back to that scene, and how a family and neighborhood are changed because of the death. I don't know if it is because the reader doesn't know the character that passes away, but because there were so few details I couldn't sympathize with any of the characters, but rather felt that I was reading the news.

Breena Clarke writes beautifully about 1920's Georgetow
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Keyshia Dorsey
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
i read a few reviews were people were saying the story has no plot, and i guess thats true. it was like i had a glimpse into someones (mostly Johnnie Mae) life. it was a trip and i enjoyed the journey. i find my self wanting to know how johnnie mae turned out as a full adult, did she go to schoool, are her and Pearl still friends. How did her brother turn out? it was a good read i enjoyed it a lot.
Christi
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a good book. The lives of the characters were illuminating but at times the characters seemed only partially formed. That didn't detract from the telling of the story, just left me wanting more.
Patty
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is really a great book. I actually picked it up while strolling through the flea market one Saturday morning. I enjoyed it so much, I plan on reading it again.
Marie
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Hard to stay with at firsrt. Then it was a page turner. Ending, I didn't get.
Kate Gray
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Apparently, I liked this book more than the average reader. Beautiful writing in spots, confusing in others... but that didn't make me dislike the book. This is a memorable community. I loved watching the women interact kind of above Johnnie Mae's head.
Victoria Smith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristine
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book 5 stars for the gifted writing, which so brilliantly tells the story of the devastating loss in the Bynum family. The story gives special focus into the grief of mama, Alice, and older sister, Johnnie Mae, as they deal with the death of their daughter/little sister. Along the way, the reader is introduced to endearing characters; family members, friends, and neighbors, and how they are also affected by this tragic event.

I loved the setting of the novel, which gives an interestin
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Steph
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
River, Cross My Heart is a quiet, thoughtful story of facing tragedy and its aftermath. Although set in a black community in the early 1900's, Clarke focuses much less on ideas of prejudice and its repercussions on the black community than may be expected. Instead, this is a story about families, about mothers and daughters, about life, death, rebirth, and why it is all worth celebrating.

The patchwork intricacies of storytelling that Clarke uses meander back and forth throughout the cast of fri
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Stacielynn
I chose this book off the shelf at work. I disregarded the Oprah sticker on the front and read it anyway. It is an interesting story but the author's style sometimes left me confused and uncertain. The protagonist, Johnnie Mae, is an appealing little girl, full of moxie and independence. In a fairy tale she would come out on top, but this is a slice of life in segregated early 20th century Washington, DC., so her fate is not guaranteed to be rosy. The historic details were excellent and I would ...more
Maureen
Dec 28, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked the book but did not love it. Perhaps I've read too many southern/racism -oriented books lately and need to take a break, though the topic is always relevant,interesting, and (usually)sad.

The author, Breena Clarke, has a lovely, informed voice and is quite eloquent in how she writes, capturing the poor Negro-voice and experience perfectly. The plot, though it held great promise as a poignant story about the accidental death of a child and the impact on those around her, somehow never se
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Emily Adams
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. I couldn't put it down. I read several reviews that said the first chapter was the best, but I loved them all. Each one held me. I could almost feel the mothers love for her daughter. Very moving book that I'm glad I read.
Pam Masters
I want to say that I found this book through the recommendations on Goodreads based on books I have read before. If it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't have read this book. That said, I have to say that it was a pretty easy read.

My biggest issue with this story was the constant flipping of point of view mid-stream. There were several times that I was unsure who's mind I was in or who's eyes I was seeing out of. That made it difficult to follow at some points. I did find myself drawn to read
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Heather
May 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marin Thomas
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a tough story for me to read, because I know someone who's child drowned. Maybe that was also why I connected with how this family dealt with their loss--very real emotions that rang true to me.
Antonella
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
The book opens with the drowning of six-year old Clara Bynum when she falls in the Potomac River as her sister, Johnnie Mae swims nearby. It takes place in the 1920s in Washington, D.C., and follows the Bynum family (who is black) through their journey of healing after such a tragic loss.
Debi Kermeen
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I could not put this book down for very long….her writing really made me feel like I was right there with the characters~
Thebestdogmom
Jan 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Once again, another Oprah book club book I wish I never read. I really felt this book went no where. I wish I gave up on reading it after a few pages like I was inclined to do.
Nancy
Interesting coming of age story with incite into black culture of the 1920s. Though the plot was rather simplistic, it did hold my attention.
Cathy Johnson
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book which I picked up from the "take one, leave one" shelf at our resort. It has great detail and depiction of life of African Americans in the 1920's. It's set in Georgetown, with references made to rural North Carolina and Oklahoma. It helps me have an appreciation for contributions of African Americans and awareness of white privilege.
Wendy
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
It wasn't the worst of the worst. It is well written; the beginning was interesting, but after 100 pages it fell flat and felt like I was watching someone else's boring life. It wasn't a funny story, and it wasn't touching. I couldn't relate to any of the characters. (You know, the usual problems you find in books.) I skipped to the end.
Janey
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I thought I was going to enjoy this book, but the writing style was too fragmented for my taste. It just didn't flow as a cohesive novel generally does. It seemed bigger details were left out and yet somehow there were too many details for insignificant events. Not for me.
Mary Crotty
May 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
couldn't find the plot
Monique
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it
So just finished this book and had to write this review before I went to sleep..yes I should definitely be asleep LOL however this book is one that is easy to forget about and one you can easily put down and not pick up again (sorry) but, also when you do pick it up and start reading and get into it you can't stop! So it was that I was pleasantly surprised by this book and honestly it would have been a four star book on content and depth alone however it hit a few snags in its chronology but for ...more
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Breena Clarke's third novel, ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE, will be published in July, 2014. Breena is the author of two historical novels set in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Her debut novel, RIVER, CROSS MY HEART (1999) was an October 1999 Oprah Book Club selection. Clarke’s critically reviewed second novel, STAND THE STORM is set in mid-19th century Washington, D.C. and was cho ...more
More about Breena Clarke...

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“Only a teaspoon of self-pity, girl. Every day give yourself a teaspoonful, but only a teaspoonful. Fill it up full, but only once! Don’t let yourself have more. You can’t live off it. But just a bit of it is like a tonic.” 9 likes
“But comes a time for a woman when she stops thinking of herself as a girl, as a person of possibilities. She starts looking at the plain facts of herself. Her body that’s become the body that she has and her habits becoming the habits that she’s written in stone. Her “haves” being the ones she’s got and maybe not getting anymore.” 2 likes
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