A River Called Time by Mia Cuoto

Title:  A River Called Time
Author:  Mia Cuoto
Release date:  September 1, 2009
Publisher:  Serpent’s Tail
Pages:  192
Genre:  Multicultural fiction
Source:  Publisher

Mariano, who moved away from his family’s village to live in the city nearby years ago, has just learned that his grandfather has passed away.  When he returns home, he discovers that his grandfather had chosen him to take over the running of the family’s affairs upon his passing, despite the fact that Mariano has a father and several uncles more capable of this task.  In addition, he begins receiving letters supposedly from his dead grandfather, telling him that there is more to his family than he knows about, and that there is a secret about his birth.  This secret must come to light in order for his grandfather to fully pass into the next life – and it is up to Mariano to discover the truth.

I received A River Called Time as a surprise from the publisher months ago, and recently I’ve really been trying to whittle down my pile of review books, which is why I finally picked it up.  I definitely liked the book, even though it was very different from my typical fare.

I don’t read very many books in translation (I really need to work on that), but based on my inexperience, the translation of A River Called Time felt very natural and well done to me.  The only issue I had with the novel, really, was that I felt that I was kept at arms length from the characters.  I don’t know if this was because of the translation aspect or because of the story itself or because of my own inability to connect.  Either way, if I was able to feel closer emotionally to the characters the book would have been improved tenfold for me.

As it was, I enjoyed the story and was really touched by the ending.  Mariano was a character that I was truly able to like.  He had such a big heart for his family, even though he had left them at an early age, that really wasn’t his decision.  He felt separated from them, from his old life, but still cared deeply for them and wanted desperately to figure out what this big secret was his grandfather was trying to tell him.  He was also a person of faith – although it is nearly impossible to believe that a dead person can communicate with us, especially through writing, Mariano believed it because the words he read were so authentically his grandfather, there just wasn’t any other explanation he could come up with.

By the time the book ended, I REALLY wanted to know this secret just as Mariano did.  When it was finally revealed, I was shocked but thought it made perfect sense given everything else I had learned about this family throughout the story.  It was a satisfying conclusion and it made me very happy that I stuck with the book and finished it.  The ending made the entire book worth it, for me.  It was actually very perfect.

I would recommend A River Called Time if you enjoy books about people in cultures other than your own, and if you love a good story with a satisfying ending.