It’s 1977. Bannen, Georgia, nestled amid pine forests, is rife with contrasts: natural beauty and racial tension, small-town charm and long-term poverty. An unsettling place for a Black man who fled it years ago and has since traveled the world.
But Greer Michaels has to come home, to care for his dying mother.
And that means he’ll have to reckon with the devastating secret that drove him out in the first place.
Greer’s story is intertwined with those of the people around him: His mother, Elizabeth, who once had a dazzling singing voice but fell silent years ago. Their neighbor Esse, who has turned to religion after her own traumatic past. Esse’s teenaged daughter, Ceiley, an insatiable reader with a burning curiosity about life beyond Bannen’s town limits.
Written in spare and lyrical prose, As a River moves back and forth across decades, evoking the mysterious play of memory as it touches upon shame and redemption, despair and connection. An exploration of family secrets rooted in the turbulent history of the segregated South, As a River is ultimately about our struggles to understand each other, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.