Down By The River
by Robyn Carr, contemporary (2003)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-704-5


I am sailing/See me sailing/Down the river/Out of Grace Valley...

Ahem. This book takes place in Grace Valley, the place where I almost died of a sugar overdose when I last visited. This time, I almost died too. If there is any place that is begging for a brothel/truck stop to be built so that faith in humanity can be restored again, it's Grace Valley, a horribly saccharine town where people exist just to prove that Sometimes, Problems Are Solved When A Mighty Noble Soul Walks In And Rescues Us All. This book begs for a place beside your Precious Memories figurines, Confederate Beanie Babies, Thomas Kinkade ornamental plates, and that great rifle your Uncle Jeb hangs over the fireplace between the heads of the two Alaskan moose he shot back in '74, bless his heart, before he died of a cholesterol-choked red-meat overdose.

In this book, like a long marathon of Touched By An Angel Here And Here And Oh My God, It's Here, Oh, OH HALLELUJAH!, stars a virtuously pregnant single mother-to-be being redeemed by the love of an Uncle-Sam loving action man, a mature woman wondering whether to meet a pen-pal (male) acquaintance, poverty-stricken caregivers with sick kiddies and strained relationships with hubby, poverty-stricken caregivers with sick kiddies and missing husbands, and more. Even the priestly guy isn't exempt from crisis.

But lo, salvation is at hand! Ms Carr has everyone coming together and gossiping, wailing, whining, and wondering "What about the children?" until everything is solved by Kind and Helpful Strangers That Care who just walk in and hands out business card of Deus Ex Machina, Inc. The characters here don't solve their problems by doing anything to overcome these problems. They just sit on their ass until some kind stranger walks in and waves his holy wand and makes everything okay.

There is an audience for this book, of course - readers who love close-knit smalltown stories where just the idea of a close-knit town - where when you marry one of them, you inherit the whole town, sort of like marrying a Siamese dictaplet - is irresistible. Or readers who, when the binding of their Chicken Soup books are worn out by constant use, are looking for a full-length novel substitute. And of course, readers who are still in mourning over the axing of Touched By An Angel but can't afford to spend money to emulate Norma Zimmer's beautiful plastically enhanced virtuous holy beauty, come cleanse your sorrows in Grace Valley. Don't go to Vegas and throw your money to Barry Copperfield. Change the frequency of your channel to Robyn Carr, where grace and virtue are always on the menu, rain or shine. Just don't mind us mortals wallowing in the cesspit of our sin.

Excuse me, I think I'm not worthy to enter the hollowed halls of Grace Valley. Anyone knows how I can get to the nearest honky-tonk bar and do my Proud Mary impersonation while getting rip-roaring drunk?

Rating: 52


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