River Woman, River Demon: A Novel by Jennifer Givhan

This book really annoyed me at first. Eva Santos has a distinctive, poetic, repetitive listing of magical objects literary lilt– and after a while it drove me crazy.

She lives with her Magick Husband, Jericho live on a ranch near a river with their two children (she calls them her “X’s”– Ximena and Xavier) practicing a blend of Hoodoo, curanderisma, brujeria, etc. They have staked their ranch with iron stakes and treated them with herbs and prayers to protect themselves.

But one night, Eva wakes up to the sound of screaming from the river and finds her best friend dead in the arms of her husband. He gets arrested. But Eva is already haunted by a tragic drowning from her past– her other best friend– and was falsely accused of murder– or was it false?

Eva is the most unreliable of narrators. She is emotional, magickal thinking, impulsive, doesn’t give us the whole story, doubts herself, sees visions, interprets coincidences, and its difficult to know what to believe or even like her sometimes with her terrible decision making.

But the one thing I couldn’t do is give up on this book. What did Jericho do? Clues appear, and then slowly, like drowning in a warm pool of candles and liquor and shame and owl-omens, we are swimming in Eva’s emotional world to discover that maybe all those signs weren’t just random coincidences. Maybe her past haunts her in more than just dreams.

Which is to say, the reason I gave it a 5 is tied up in the last third of the book, about which, I can say nothing without spoiling the slow descent to madness and clarity. Suffice it to say, this is a lushly written book, layered thriller, with a hint of magick.