Those Across the River, by Christopher Buehlman, is a strange, disturbing, and yet fascinating journey through the eyes of World War I veteran Frank Nichols as he and his fiancé nee wife to be, Eudora Chambers, travel to Whitbrow, Georgia where they hope to start a new life together.
Frank has been ostracized from the academic community because of his actions concerning Eudora’s current relationship with him while he was a teacher at the university. By moving to Whitbrow, he hopes to write a novel based on his great-grandfather Lucien Savoyard's life and exploits as a member of the Georgia 18th Cavalry during the Civil War. There have been disturbing stories concerning Lucien’s treatment of his own slaves, and his refusal to set them free when Union forces closed in on Atlanta. Frank also wants to have tell the story of the slave survivors.
Instead of paying attention to his Aunt Dottie McComb’s warning about staying where he is, and selling the property to whomever wants it. Frank and Eudora end up in Whitbrow anyway and end up in the middle of a decades old hatred that goes back to the Civil War and slavery. Continued bad choices will changed their lives forever; especially Eudora's.
There are undercurrents afoot across the river and in the woods where Frank is warned to stay away from. Anyone who goes into those woods doesn’t return the same way. Frank ignores the fact that there is bad blood here, and even though he personally wasn’t responsible for what happened during the Civil War, memories die hard in the Deep South and Frank just happens to be the one outlet for justice for those who survived his great-grandfathers atrocities.
The story takes place during the early 20th century (1935 to be exact) when there is still strong hatred towards those with the wrong skin color or who are different. Hostilities continue to be at a tipping point where one man’s innocence or guilt is measured by hanging the condemned until he is dead.
The language is somewhat offensive at times and anyone who harbors any reservations or resentment over the use of derogatory comments, may be turned off by the use of them. But, without it, the story would have been a farce since any story that takes place in the deep south must contend with the reality of the time period and those who are still dealing with racial hatred.
The story development is slow at first, but necessary to the overall understanding and mindset of the main and sub-characters as they move through a course of action that puts them in direct conflict with the monsters in the woods. The only real surprise is what these monsters really are and why they end up going after certain people.
The second half of this book will boggle your mind after things are set in motion by the townsfolk decisions in regards to sending pigs into the woods. Because of this decision, people end up dead and missing and a desire for payback stews in the residents counteractions. This, of course, leaves Frank and Eudora’s lives forever changed; especially Eudora’s.
I highly recommend this book, but warn potention readers that you must put away pre-conceived notions of what you are going to read about. I would put this book squarely in the horror genre as to it's content and expectations.
ARC Accepted on 07/11/2011. Expected publication: September 6th 2011 by Ace Hardcover