Book Review: False River

False River
By H.G. Reed

H.G. Reed's False River is an engaging, exciting, and thought-provoking story, filled with suspense and a few surprise twists.

Set near False River in Louisiana, this novel tells the story of Joe, a hardworking farmer and family man who will do anything to protect his wife and daughter. We soon learn that doing anything to protect them includes selling his soul to the devil to save his wife's life, which he did ten years ago. Now, the devil, presenting as a cute young lady named Ellie May, has returned to make another deal with Joe, offering his soul back to him, if he will murder someone for her.

The premise alone is enough to excite you. False River is told in alternating limited third-person POV (meaning that each chapter alternates whose mind we get to look inside), and it shows how Joe's decisions affect those around him. 

What I found most interesting was Joe's relationship with his wife, Catherine. At first, it's clear that he's devoted to her and will do anything to save their marriage. At the same time, since he doesn't have a soul anymore, he's unable to show her the passion and love she needs from him. I loved seeing Catherine's perspective throughout this book, since she struggled in such a different way.

I won't give away any spoilers in this review, but I will tell you, there are tons of twists and surprises waiting for you. The suspense is brilliantly crafted; by revealing just a little bit at a time, Reed compels us to read more, in order to understand the complete story. By the end, we're left satisfied, with a full picture of what's going on, from everyone's perspective.

Another thing I appreciated about False River is that it's timeless; it's never clear what time period it's taking place in, but that adds to the story rather than detracts from it. We're very clearly in a traditionalist, Southern setting, but the lack of time-period-specific aspects made this story feel like it could've taken place 30 years ago, or right now, and it wouldn't have made a difference. Since it's full of Biblical references, it's definitely fitting that it remains timeless.

The final thing I liked about False River is the way Reed seamlessly wove in so much symbolism into her language. For example, by setting the story on False River, we get the vibe from the beginning that something there is "false." The play on words becomes evident when we learn that Joe sold his soul to the devil on False River ten years ago, and has been keeping that a secret from his wife--a secret that has been threatening their marriage.

Similarly, Joe's last name is Lawson. The devil has been haunting his family for generations, so she's been tormenting the entire line of Lawson men. It soon becomes clear that there is significance behind the name Lawson, coming from Son of the Law. (I won't give away any spoilers, though.)

Overall, I give False River four stars. The pacing and storytelling is brilliant, and each character feels full, rounded, and believable. The reason I couldn't give it a fifth star is that I didn't appreciate the way female characters were treated. It wasn't a big deal, but with Ellie May as the devil, and an all-male army of angels, and then Joe's wife Catherine and daughter Maddy needing constant protection, most female characters were reduced to either evil or helpless. Honestly, though, don't let that deter you from reading this. Ellie May's motivation as a demon is made clear, and she's a fully fleshed out character as well. I just wish Catherine had taken some more agency throughout it, perhaps helping Joe fight the demons, rather than him always protecting her.

Anyway, I highly recommend False River. It's one of the best indie books I've read this year, and you won't be disappointed!

You can buy False River in paperback or ebook here!

Happy reading!



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