Neil Kazensakis has a lot on his plate. His wife has been hospitalized, kept alive by costly medical intervention, since an accident left her completely debilitated. Since then, he’s been raising his teenage son alone. But life is generally ok for Neil and his little family. He loves his job teaching and even offers up extra time as a running coach. And he’s met someone.
Just as he’s ready to finally open up to his son about his relationship, though, he finds himself in the midst of a scandal that could cost him his reputation and his career. An incident after school is caught on tape and the video seems to show Neil beating up a student. While it’s anything but the whole – or even the true – story, Neil is forced to defend his innocence and hope that an investigation will clear up the matter. Tensions are running high as the town splits in opinion about the matter. For Neil, though, worse than losing the respect of the people he once called friends, he faces the very real possibility of losing his job and the insurance that allows him to continue caring for his wife.
The Banks of Certain Rivers is such an emotional read. Knowing that the so called fight isn’t what everyone believes, knowing that Neil is innocent, and knowing exactly what the consequences of it all will mean if he’s not cleared forces the reader to share in much of Neil’s anger and frustration. At the same time, the struggles he faces with his wife’s situation are truly heartbreaking.
I was blown away by Harrison’s debut. The characters are so real and the story is so intense that it honestly became a bit uncomfortable at times. And yet, The Banks of Certain Rivers is not a story that’s easy to walk away from. I wanted to know how it would turn out. I was invested in Neil and his family.
9/14 Becky LeJeune
THE BANKS OF CERTAIN RIVERS by Jon Harrison. Lake Union Publishing (September 23, 2014). ISBN 978-1477825235. 366p.