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Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere But Here

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  430 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Angela Palm grew up in a place not marked on the map, her house set on the banks of a river that had been straightened to make way for farmland. Every year, the Kankakee River in rural Indiana flooded and returned to its old course while the residents sandbagged their homes against the rising water. From her bedroom window, Palm watched the neighbor boy and loved him in se ...more
Paperback, 253 pages
Published August 16th 2016 by Graywolf Press
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  430 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of Leslie Jamison, Eula Biss, Joni Tevis and Rebecca Solnit
Riverine has a strong sense of place, revealing how traces of the past are still visible in the landscape and how our environment shapes who we are. Palm reflects on the winding course of her life and the people who meant most to her along the way, including Corey, an older neighbor boy she had a crush on. Although he and the author drifted apart, she was devastated to learn that he had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering their elderly neighbors. Reconnecting with Corey in her thirtie ...more
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere But Here" by Angela Palm recalls her heritage beginning in Hebron, Indiana near the Kankakee River. With beautifully written lyrical prose, Palm, a "bookish fisher-girl" tells the story of her river people, the men lining up to pass sandbags to protect home/neighborhoods from flooding. The Kankakee swamp stretching for 5,300 miles was the largest wetland in the U.S. The Land Act of 1850 was designed to convert this Indiana marsh into farmland, as the American po ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really loved this memoir - I loved the writing style and pace of it. It also has a wonderful sense of place - living by the river, swampy-ness, fields of corn (particularly liked when she spends a summer picking corn) and alongside this the darkness - the poverty, mental illness and violence, which culminates in her neighbour/crush - Corey committing an horrific murder and ending up in jail.

I particularly liked the first two thirds of the book which covered her childhood and college years - t
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Human beings’ dual capacity for compassion and brutality is the great paradox at the heart of the human condition. Despite the best efforts of religion, philosophy, psychology, and, more recently, particle physics to explain our ‘fallen’ state, the majority of us spend our lives merely skimming the surface of this granddaddy of all existential questions. We are moral automatons, acting within a system of behavior modeled for us by our family and culture, shaped by our experiences, and so ingrain ...more
Mrs. Danvers
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
My expectations were too high. Also, I didn't love the many references to other books and writers, which each time felt to me to be a way of substituting another writer's words for her own. There are no original stories - - the point is to tell the story in your own unique way. Anyway, I'm probably just cranky again because I expected more. ...more
Susan Ritz
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Angela Palm has lived quite a life and she writes about it with intelligence and grace. Though I'm usually wary of memoirs by anyone under 50, this book shows a depth that I seldom find in memoirs by writers of any age. Palm weaves together her life story with literary allusions and insights into how lives that start at the same point can take such divergent paths yet remain closely tied by childhood memories and enduring love. Winner of the Graywolf Press award for Creative Non-fiction, well-de ...more
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written,honest memoir. Best when Palm writes of her family growing up and her relationship with her childhood love. Sometimes the digressions were difficult to follow and pulled me away emotionally from the heart of the book.
Elizabeth Powell
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A page turner of lyrical prose that delves into the mysteries of the human condition. This book aches with beauty and a kind of redemption we don't always expect. Read this book now. ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lock-up, memoirs-bios
This book sat 6 months on my shelf after being passed to me on a friend's recommendation. So glad I finally picked it up. This is a Graywolf winner, sitting in good company with some of my favorite creative nonfiction. Angela Palm tells her coming-of-age story from the interesting perspective of her own experience juxtaposed with her childhood sweetheart. Their lives diverge at a critical juncture in their teenage years, as she is just discovering how to craft her own identity from the resources ...more
Sigrun Hodne
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a talent! A memoir, an essay - or both? Palm writes about a different kind of America, maybe the ordinary, but also very different from the BIG stories. I haven't read anything this good on a long-long time! I'm already looking forward to her next book ... ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book came into my sights because a friend knows the author and because the author grew up around the Kankakee River (a body of water that's a big deal where I'm currently living). It didn't move me or arrest me, like I always hope a book will.

In fact, this book bummed me out. It made me think of the memoir I would write, if I ever got up the energy and courage. I'd write well enough, but without sureness or ease. I'd overestimate the pull of my tiny tragedies and the searing fascination of
Kathleen Kirchner
Jun 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
My thoughts on this book pretty much follow the table of contents.

Part 1: Huh, this is interesting and pretty if a bit pretentious.
Part 2: Okay really pretentious. We get it, you've read a bunch of books.
Part 3: I literally hate everything about this story and threw the book down on my bed and wanted to wake up my husband to tell him about it.

So...odd. Looking forward to discussing it in book club though!
Molly McCarty
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
The palpable attraction - shit, the painfully obvious love - between the author and her incarcerated childhood neighbor, Corey, continues to tear at my heart days after I have put down this refreshingly honest memoir. This relationship is the heartbeat of the book. It pulses through Palm's description the Kankakee's dirty water, it wafts above the cheesesteak fries she serves. How can someone you love do something terrible and why doesn't this make your love disappear? This is a question with wh ...more
Angela Palm's beautifully written memoir chronicles her life in rural Indiana, exploring the floodplains of her youth in conjunction with the undercurrent of violence that vibrates between the people and landscape of her world. When the boy next door commits murder, she flees into a life of art and intellect, only to discover that her past will never truly let go of her. Palm's memoir is not a list of chronological events, but rather a set of closely related lyrical essays that explore how the p ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm not sure exactly how to describe my feelings towards this book. Growing up in the same town but moving there in middle school, I get the feelings of being an outsider, "if you ain't Dutch you ain't much" was a common theme to growing up there; HOWEVER, I also have fond memories and good feelings towards that town and the people there. I have super mixed emotions about this book, but I enjoyed the read regardless. Very well written. ...more
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful sentences, and a beautiful, layered, intricately crafted story. Palm gets at so many things in this book, from our understanding of home, to what love is as we grow up, and the divergent paths we take to become who we are. But mostly: those sentences! Recommended for curling up a cup of tea and a warm blanket, with a heart that's open to beauty. ...more
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and evocative memoir. Palm focuses on how her childhood environment shaped herself as opposed to her friend Corey. The strength of the writing fades a bit in the last 50 pages but overall it is a very vivid and compelling work.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and personal without being navel-gazing.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
We read this book for book club. I was happy to finish it with 15 minutes to spare before book club started!

I have seriously mixed feelings on this book. My rating stems from being able to relate to the author A TON and also for her often great writing. Aside from that, it's kind of a hot mess.

We read this book because it's set in the small town our book club's founder grew up in (she lived minutes away from where the author grew up), and where I now live. Reading something set in your town is
I love what this memoir has to say about finding your own unique home. Angela Palm grew up in rural Indiana. Despite feeling like she never really belonged, she went to college in-state, and stuck around after graduation. As a grad with no idea where I wanted to end up, I was motivated by how she made the decision to finally move. She traveled around to a few different cities, looking for a place that inspired her. She eventually settled in Burlington, Vermont, not because she had any ties there ...more
Andy Cortez
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great Read. It really puts you in Palm's perspective. I really like the fact that we actually get to see things from her childhood and how she felt. What really surprised is how open she is talking about herself and her family, it must've been kind of hard writing down such emotions and feelings in the memoir. Also the many references to other works that somehow relate to what she is talking about
Overall a solid read.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read for my Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L 2019 (reducto: read a title starting with R).

A wondrous memoir both intimate and broad which details the pull of growing up and straying away and the call back of home by the sounds of winding rivers and the never-ending cornfields of your childhood.

"Whoever we were before does not matter so much here. We bow to green knolls now. We are mountain high. We find ourselves ankle deep in streams, lost in make-believe, and choking on milkweed."
Gail Kennon
i have very little sense of her as a person, her family, the river or of corey as a boy. the largest sense i have is of her as a very beloved waitress.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I admire this book so much—for its technical and emotional acumen. Kafka famously said, “We need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” I favor such grievous reading. I want to be moved, I want blunt-force trauma to the head and heart. Riverine is both; the book had me puzzling over technical and fo ...more
Rena Graham
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
A beautifully written memoir, it would have gained an extra star had it been more concise with a tighter timeline. The story wandered like the river she writes so lovingly about at the beginning of the book and not until the prison scene towards the end of the book, did I really feel the depth of connection to Corey and how it had dictated her life's direction. Exquisite language throughout, there were a few sentences I didn't completely understand but didn't even care. She quotes other writers ...more
Lisa Kusel
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I could write a 10-page review describing how much I loved this book, but I don't have the time. I read this book as if it were an expensive indulgent box of chocolates...a little at a time, so that I could savor each bite, each moment, each taste of beauty. I feel smarter having read Ms. Palm's story. I lost myself in her brain, its incessant meanderings and ruminations and elegiacal interpretations of the worlds she inhabited. The saga of Corey resonated with me on so many levels: the lost one ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Riverine, the memoir of a woman who grew up in a former wetland in Indiana and loved the boy next door, who ended up in prison, was not dissimilar from many other female memoirs I have read. It is not Angela Palm's fault, but the path of growing up and finding self--"parents did bad things and/or I did bad things, I felt strange where I was and I had secret thoughts and surely nobody understood me"--has been well-trodden. What makes Riverine unique is the distinct sense of place, the geography a ...more
Chris Roberts
Aug 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
A memoir is the progression and attempted amplification of the banal.

Memoirs die fast, lies linger longer. It is what I call the buyer beware genre.

The memorist lives a life grasping for metaphors and or relevancy.

Heritage writing is breathtakingly boring. How can the reader care more about the writer's family than the author?

Sister, I don't give a damn about inmate #00000000, where you came to reside, your hair color, the everyday of yesterday, the pretty orange/red tulip you picked, your mea
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
**Goodreads Giveaway**
I think it's a brave thing for anyone to examine their life and write about the past with honesty and authenticity. I really wish I could give this book a better rating, because so much of it was beautifully written, and left me wishing I could write my own story. But for every passage that was achingly poetic, there was another that I found mind-numbingly dull. In the end, I felt that the writing tried too hard in places, and I was left with the feeling that the author was
Emily Arnason
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Riverine is steeped in the heritage of landscape and place; it follows the heart of the river of Palm's childhood, intertwining tragedy and triumph as she makes her way from girlhood to woman, writer, mother, and cultural critic. Palm brilliantly twines the forces of memory, subversive politics, narrative, and page-turning story into a book that announces her as one of our culture's leading voices on the human experience in the modern era. I look forward to more from this author! ...more
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Angela Palm is the author of Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here (Graywolf Press) and winner of the 2015 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. She edited the anthology featuring work by Vermont writers, Please Do Not Remove (Wind Ridge Books). Angela's writing has appeared in Ecotone, Brevity, DIAGRAM, Paper Darts, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. Her essay, "The Devolution of Cake," and her sto ...more

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