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River, Cross My Heart (Oprah's Book Club) [Paperback]

Breena Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Aug 2000 Oprah's Book Club
Set in the Georgetown neighbourhood of Washington in the 1920s, this is the story of young black girl Johnnie Mae Bynum, entrusted with the care of her younger sister Clara when at the river. Johnnie Mae's attention wanders and her sister drowns. Johnnie Mae must come to terms with her place in the world.


Product details

  • Paperback: 251 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; Reprint edition (3 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752838199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752838199
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 690,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Breena Clarke grew up in Washington, DC, and was educated at Webster College and Howard University. She is the author of two widely praised novels, "River, Cross My Heart, "which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and "Stand the Storm. "She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pre-Depression Black D.C. 19 Nov 2009
By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The first thing to know about this book is that it basically has no plot -- it's more a series of loosely connected vignettes that, when taken as whole, combine to give the reader an impression of African-American life in the 1920s in a particular neighborhood in Washington, D.C. So, while the book does open with a beautifully rendered chapter in which the 12-year-old protagonist's sister drowns in the Potomac river, that tragedy doesn't lead to the kind of linear story with clear resolution many readers might expect.

In that respect, the book is a bit of a failure -- but to my mind, it more than makes up for it by presenting a compelling roster of leading and supporting characters who bring alive the social history of pre-Depression black Washington. To be sure, the little girl's death hovers over the entire book, and the author does a great job of showing how the community rallies to support the family, but it's really about the community, not the tragedy itself. We get little peeks into everyday life, rituals, habits, social mores, and so forth. And of course, racism and it's economic and social consequences are woven throughout the book in a seamless manner.

Ultimately, it's a very personal book -- the author lost her child to an accident, and it's hard not to read the book as part of her grieving process. Also, her parents grew up in Georgetown during the era the book describes, and the book began as a story based on their reminisces, so in that sense it honors their history. It's definitely a book worth checking out if you have a connection to Washington, D.C. or just want a good fictional glimpse of African-American social history -- just don't expect much of a story.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where's the passion? 15 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Breena Clarke's portrayal of a family living in 1920s Washington teetered on the edge of being really very interesting, however her style of writing is so bland and wan that we don't venture into truly creative writing. Rather oddly, some of the potential high points in the lives of the characters were summed up in a few paragraphs, whilst mundane events seemed to take centre stage. I very much wanted to root for Johnnie-Mae, but couldn't empathise with the character. It's more Mills & Boon than Toni Morrison.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soaked in religion, faith and belief.... 31 Dec 2007
Format:Paperback
I picked this book up on a recommendation- i had previously read "Cane River" by Lalita Tademy and "River, Cross you heart" was also on the Oprah book list and I am so glad I purchased this.

From the very first page you are tugged into an emotional rollercoaster- happiness, sadness, loss, crisis of faith- pulling you in different directions in every chapter. Combine all these emotions with the problems of Johnnie Mae- a young, black girl on the cusp of adolesence and you have got a fantastic book.

By the time you reach the end of the book; you feel as if you have invested time in looking after Johnnie Mae in her growing up and her struggling with the death of her sister Clara- to which she feels she played a part in.

Absolutley fantastic. For people who have read "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold- this makes for an interesting contrast.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This was set in Georgetown, Washington DC and even though I'm not even from the US I'd spent time there and this book caught my eye.
A wonderfully told tale about how how family and friends react to the death of a young child. Great first novel.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great storytelling,filled with wisdom. 25 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Enjoyed this book, well worth the time. Breena Clarke is an excellent storyteller. "River" is filled with wisdom sayings and reflections on cultural traditions of Blacks from the South. Those insights reflect research done within Breena's family/the kind of listening research that many Blacks fail to do with the elders in their clans. The story of Johnnie Mae is a powerful one with lessons for young and old. I recommend teachers consider this for class assignments. This book will take off with reading clubs.
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