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The Banks of Certain Rivers

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,506 ratings  ·  294 reviews
In the lakeside resort town of Port Manitou, Michigan, 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 b ...more
Paperback, 366 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by Lake Union Publishing (first published March 19th 2013)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,506 ratings  ·  294 reviews

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Catherine McKenzie
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Angela M
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, arc, fiction, shelf-13
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
I’m not quite sure what to make of this story. What was it about? Well, I think that is debatable and perhaps that I why I am having a hard time coming to a decision in my head on whether this was great or just okay.

On the surface, it seems like a book about a family dealing with loss and grief... a family broken and trying to move on. What made it difficult for me was the fact that there were several “plots” happening among this main story line. I found myself so agitated with all of the “inte
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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

A-Z and PopSugar Challenge with Karly and Jess

A mystery or thriller - The Banks of Certain Rivers
H = Harrison, Jon

3.5 stars

I enjoyed this one enough. Wasn't bad, wasn't great. It had its sad and touching moments but the ending seemed lacking. Everything wrapped up with a nice little bow but you never really get the why of a certain part of the "mystery" and the MC doesn't even really seem to care. Overall it was a quick and not an unenjoyable read.

Received 10/17/14...Murph approves

I received a
Jennifer (Sad Books Say So Much)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
phyllis frosst
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...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!
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
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
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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!! ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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
Shannis 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
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
Allison Cicchetti
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sonja Yoerg
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the first page I was hooked, and by the end of the first chapter I knew that Jon Harrison had crafted a winner. “The Banks of Certain Rivers” is a moving, realistic portrait of an ordinary man in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. Themes of loss, love, loyalty, and conflicts of the heart are explored in a deftly written, multilayered story where broken people try to find happiness as they mend themselves and each other.
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Larry H
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Teena in Toronto
Apr 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
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
Read In Colour
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Wall-to-wall books - 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
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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

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