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As a River

4.58  ·  Rating details ·  71 ratings  ·  25 reviews
It’s 1977. Bannen, Georgia, nestled amid pine forests, is rife with contrasts: natural beauty and racial tension, small-town charm and long-term poverty. An unsettling place for a Black man who fled it years ago and has since traveled the world.

But Greer Michaels has to come home, to care for his dying mother.

And that means he’ll have to reckon with the devastating secret
Paperback, 218 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Jaded Ibis Press
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dining-room-1
A quiet, beautifully-told story. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

As a River is based in Georgia in the 1970s, a heated time for race relations in this small southern town. Greer Michaels has returned home to care for his dying mother after a lifetime of traveling the world. Returning home also means he’ll have to face the secrets as to why he left.

Greer is surrounded by other characters the reader also comes to know well. One of them, Ceiley, is an avid reader I think we all could relate to! His mother, Elizabe
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How fortunate I was to read this novel as it made its way toward publication, and how delighted I am to know the rest of the world can now be transformed by the powerful story and gracious, poetic prose.

Debut novelist Sion Dayson has created a novel like blown glass- somehow beautifully fragile yet impossibly strong- a work of art that changes shape and color and texture depending on the angle and the light. I loved it. I loved it. I slipped so easily into Greer, Caroline, Esse- everyone- the c
Rene Denfeld
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I hope this wins all the prizes, because it should. What a sparkling debut by Sion Dayson.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
I was fortunate to read an advance copy of this beautiful, deeply moving work from a fellow Jaded Ibis Press author. Forthcoming in September.
Emily Monaco
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had the distinct pleasure of reading an advance copy of this book, and I cannot recommend it heartily enough. Dayson manages through deft, beautiful language to convey a gentle story of homecoming, love, and finding out who one truly is. Across multiple generations of characters, this story evokes a tumultuous period in American history with care, gravitas, and genuine emotion. Never does it rely on shock value, as it could; instead, it guides the reader along quietly through the hearts and li ...more
Michelle Webster-Hein
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sion Dayson's debut novel "As a River" moves along much like a river – smoothly and compellingly, with fascinating twists and turns. The plight of Greer Michaels, the novel's protagonist, who returns to his small southern hometown sixteen years after he'd left it, becomes especially moving and immediate as he struggles to care for his dying mother and, in the process, grapple with the ghosts of his past. But Dayson demonstrates great compassion for all of her characters, and they each come fully ...more
Jodi Paloni
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully-rendered debut novel about the trials of star-crossed lovers, As a River reaches far beyond the story of one young couple and into the tumult of racial/class tensions in a time and place not far from here and now. This is both an on the edge of the seat read and a take your time over the lushness of the landscape and the sensuality of the south in summer. I read this book straight through!
Cynthia Martin
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"As a River" is Greer’s story--a story of leaving and returning. And we first meet him as he returns to take care of his dying mother, which raises the question for the reader of why he left. From there, the novel unfolds with chapters that alternate between the present of 1977 and a past that goes back thirty-two years and comes to us in layers, each one containing a secret that pushes the story forward. As we spend more and more time in the past, we become aware of the racial tension in this s ...more
Kayleen Holt
Sep 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book with carefully crafted characters and turns of phrase so poetic that I found myself pausing throughout the book to reflect. Rich in imagery and metaphor, it’s a book that deserves to be savored. Sion Dayson has artfully woven the past and present together, piecing together the different characters’ stories in such a way that they all come alive.

My favorite passage:

“When a bone breaks, you have to reset it. It grows back on its own if nothing is done, but it w
Jenny Williams
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When a novel makes you cry, you know it's doing something right! AS A RIVER does many, many things right. Exquisitely written and deeply moving, this book stands apart as a work of debut fiction. There are many familiar themes--forbidden love, family secrets, reckonings with past mistakes--but in Dayson's masterful hands they are rendered new and original. This is a courageous piece of literature, to be savored. I read passages over and over, marveling. I can't wait to see what else this author ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was hauntingly magical, and the prose beautiful. The way this story--about how choices, harms, families, and heartbreaks create impacts that ripple across generations--moves back and forth through time, much like the river in the title and the river in the novel, drew me in and kept me moving forward so that I read the entire book in one day. I highly recommend going to your local independent book store and getting yourself a copy and then settling in for the journey on which "As a Riv ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! Thank you for creating Greer: a good man who is strong and kind and emotional and awkward - a real human being. It's refreshing to have a positive male character. I love how meeting him changed the dynamic between Ceiley and Esse. Full of fascinating twists and delicious imagery. Can't wait to read it again! ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I had the opportunity to get an ARC of this book at AWP19 in Portland. Sion Dayson has done a solid job in her debut novel, creating an interesting cast of characters and weaving together a good, if a little tropey, story. I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this story. The writing is beautiful in a story of complicated love and secrets. The shifts between points of view and time are seamless and an important aspect of how each character’s past and present are revealed. Lovely.
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was absolutely amazing, I could not put it down. Sion Dayson you are brilliant & thank you for sharing/writing this! I weeped when I fished this at 1am & had so much love & gratitude for my parents...thank you!
Isabelle Solal
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved the pacing in this book, I could really feel the Southern heat, and the way the past sticks to you... Special shoutout to fantastic portrayal of minor characters; Esse, in particular, jumped off the page in very few words.
Margo Littell
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful meditation on home and homecoming, set in a Southern town where past and present are equally present and equally fraught. Dayson offers gorgeous prose and a timeline that builds dread with every turned page.
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Where has this author been all my life?! Sion has an incredible way of captivating her readers and weaving a story. I did not want this book to end!
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A poetic first novel from a brilliant storyteller. I can’t wait to read more from Sion Dayson!
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book and the author - it stuck in my head and felt like magic how it wove together different times
Marilyn Agney
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Marilyn Agney
October 5 at 6:04 PM ·

Sion is from Chapel Hill. "As a River" is her debut novel. I just "devoured" the book ... couldn't put it down. Check it out.
Sheila Pritchard
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Poignant, tender and intriguing. I loved it. A gentle read even though it covered some hard realities.
Kristin O'Keeffe
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful story. Poetic, important, and lasting.
Mar 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I really needed this book at the time that I read it. It’s so beautifully written, touches on the saga of unfinished business that can make up entire lifetimes, the capacity of life to enforce change at moments when you least expect it. “Somehow, even with all its chaos, the universe kept itself from simply falling apart.”

It’s clear that this was a labor of love by the author - the care taken to unfold the secrets over time lapses and cross-character narratives... Black resilience and self redis
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
You can’t go home again, the adage says. Thomas Wolfe’s novel by the same name underlines this concept: that changes occur over time in a fondly remembered place, rendering home an entirely different place. In her debut novel, Sion Dayson diverts this notion of nostalgia, showing us that it’s also impossible to escape home’s demons without facing the past head-on.

Dayson’s protagonist, Greer Michaels, must come home. His mother is dying. Sixteen years ago, teenaged Greer fled his segregated home
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Sion Dayson was born in New York City, grew up in North Carolina, and earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Utne Reader, The Wall Street Journal, The Rumpus, Hunger Mountain, and many other venues, and her writings often focus on travel, living abroad, and her literary hero, James Baldwin.

She has won grants and residencies from The Kerouac

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