A River So Long by Vallie Lynn Watson

Watson tells the story of Veronica’s life after her marriage, during the year she comes unraveled, in brief vignettes—scenes scattered like buckshot or blood splatter. Although the nature of Veronica’s job is never clear, she travels frequently to conferences and meetings. Nearly all the scenes take place during one of these excursions. Either she travels all the time or these are the only times she considers herself alive. Her husband is only a shadowy, alcoholic figure stranded in Veronica’s past. Instead of focusing on her home life, Veronica moves from man to man (and the occasional woman is alluded to): a work colleague, several old friends, one of whom she has never been physically close to but with whom she seems to be either in love or obsessed—both of them are familiar with the tragedy of her parents’ lives and deaths, an old boyfriend and his adopted sister who is also the object of Veronica’s strange obsession and with both of whom she shared a defining sexual encounter. The staccato beat of the scenes is mesmerizing, dropping the reader from one pivotal moment in Veronica’s life to the next as her life spirals slowly out of control. Watson’s writing is precise and expert. Scenes of Veronica’s nameless longing as she watches barges drift down the river from a hotel window unspool as meaningfully as her discussions with her various partners and friends whom she visits in a circular, dizzying pattern of need. A River So Long is a lyrical, seductive read to be savored, and one that, more than likely, will reveal even more depth of character and an even greater cleverness of scene patterning upon rereading.

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