Rise From the River by Kathie Giorgio

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Rise From the River by Kathie Giorgio. Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2015.

Reviewed by Alex Crader

This book is all about tough choices, from intimidating ones the size of mountains such as what to do about an unwanted pregnancy, to subtler, more quiet ones like whether or not to tell your estranged parents about your rough situation. The sort of story that throws all of its worst at the main character, Rainey, and expects her to keep getting up for the next round with fight in her heart. She faces a brutal sexual assault followed by a resulting pregnancy, concern for her daughter, Tish, frightened into silence from being an audience to her mother’s attack, self-doubt in the face of her highly religious landlady-come-caretaker, Doris, and even a visit from her parents, who she is not on speaking terms with, orchestrated by a well-meaning attempt by Doris to get Rainey some support in such trying times.

In a book that rolls countless important women’s issues all into one story about a woman who made an honest mistake, Rainey’s journey in making one hard decision after another highlights many of the realistic fears of an American woman. Coming from the point of view of three characters from very different generations, the book shows how the situation of one person always has a ripple effect on those closest to them—Tish is debilitated by abject fear from their encounter and must find the courage to become herself again. Doris, almost a surrogate mother to Rainey, grapples with the religious meaning behind what Rainey is going through and struggles to give her the good advice she needs.

Bracketed by first, her dreadful encounter, and last, a reclamation of the freedom to feel safe and be herself, the book chronicles a short period of time in which Rainey has to make likely some of the most devastating choices of her lifetime. The book is dedicated towards first, Rainey’s involvement in the attempt to incarcerate her attacker, the trials of striving to heal not just herself, but her daughter, and making the tough call as to what to do about her pregnancy.

While ultimately a skillfully realistic rendition of thee aftermath of rape, that realism is of course none too pleasant. A hard book to read for those with an already pessimistic perspective, this book hits hard on negativity and has little to offer in the happiness department—that’s not to say it has nothing happy at all, though considering the subject matter, that is perhaps to be expected. All of that said, the book was hard to put down and actually read all in one sitting—probably between three and four hours of sharing in Rainey’s heartbreaking incident, Tish’s return back to being as cheerful and carefree as a child should be, and Doris’ struggle with her faith and God. In the end, it was satisfying to see that Rainey no longer blamed herself for what happened, that she came out of her situation not unscathed, but still strong, and that she could manage to find such a bizarre and inadvisable way to symbolically reclaim her freedom.