The River Widow

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

3.5 Stars.  The River Widow is a piece of historical fiction that tells the story of Adah Branch and how she escapes her abusive husband only to be stuck with his horrible family.  With continuous, unrelenting rain, the Ohio River floods the area of Paducah, KY.   While packing up their house, Lester beats Adah and she accidentally kills him trying to save herself.  They both get swept up in the floods but Adah survives and is soon "rescued" by her in-laws.  

Adah's in-laws are horrible people and I don't enjoy this part of the story.  Adah was once a strong independent woman who after being beaten by her husband allows her in-laws to treat her just as nastily.  She stays with them and endures it all in in order to keep her step-daughter close to her.  This part of the story dragged on for me as I waited in suspense for her to do something and make some sort of escape to move on with her life and rid herself of the horrible Branches.  After feeling part of the story dragged on, I feel like it ended very quickly and I wanted to know more of the outcome.  

Ann Howard Creel's writing style is easy and flowing.  I enjoyed the story and felt it was mostly historically accurate.  Thank you Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.
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Ann Howard Creel’s southern gothic mystery tale The River Widow combines homespun drama with wicked mystery.  It’s a superb tale, but it’s not without its problems.When we first meet Adah Branch, it’s 1937, the Great Depression is ongoing, and she’s trying to salvage what she can from an oncoming flood ready to decimate her Kentucky farmhouse.  She has no real fondness for the house, or the man she is married to – Les, an abusive creep who sickens her – but in her attempt at salvaging things that are precious to her and Daisy, her young stepdaughter, Adah runs up against Les’ violent demands and even more abusive actions.  For the first time, she physically fights back – and kills him.  Adah knows she’s doomed to prison – or at least subject to the violent revenge of her powerful in-laws – and so she drags the body to the swollen river and throws him in, only to trip and fall into the chilly water herself.While she tries not to drown, Adah thinks of her past. Life as an orphan, dumped on a doorstep in the Bowery after her parents died from the 1918 flu epidemic.   Life bouncing from the care of a kind priest to a barren couple, to the excitement of jumping trains with a couple of male friends, who taught her the power of self-reliance.  Eventually her wanderings landed her Kentucky, where she both finished her education and fell into the life of a fortune teller who taught her the ropes before dying and leaving the business to Adah.  Reading tarot cards, she met Les.  Initially charmed by his handsomeness, only after she marries him and gives up the carnie life to become his wife does she realize what a mess she’s gotten herself into.By sheer determination, Adah escapes the river and begins lying about Les’ whereabouts, saying he drowned while they both tried to rescue their milk cow from the flood. Her intention is to go to Lone Oak, where Daisy is lodged with Les’ parents, and then for the two of them to disappear before someone figures out the truth. But instead, she’s found by Jesse, Les’ older brother, and driven to Lone Oak – where she’s stuck until she can think up a way to safely leave with Daisy in tow.  The family instantaneously disbelieves Adah’s story and becomes more and more suspicious of her as they try to drag the river for Les’ body.  The Branches have always mocked Adah for her previous occupation, feeling that it’s only two steps above witchcraft; which, they think, is one step away from murder by a woman they’ve been suspicious of for years.  Soon that abuse spreads along to Daisy.  When Les’ is body’s finally found, Jesse’s suspicions strengthen, and Mabel continues to try to countermand Adah’s parenting of Daisy.Yet Adah has steel determination, and even as her in-laws try to claim vengeance for their son’s life, she makes contact with a neighbor, Jack Darby, who hates the Branches for their evil ways - and it seems that romance, safety, and a sweeter life might be right within her reach.  Though Adah’s been cheated out of her claim on the family farm, though the Branches have custody of Daisy, Jack holds a trump card in his hand – he has information about how Les’ first wife - Daisy’s mother – died, and it wasn’t in horse riding accident as claimed. Will Adah and Daisy survive, or will Adah drown under the weight of her own sins?The River Widow provoked strong emotions in me, which is why I’ve graded it so highly, even though it’s got a number of blemishes that annoyed me. The novel is southern gothic to its core, and if you thrill to tension and mysteries it will be just your cup of tea.Its biggest problem, in general, is the Branches.  As a unit, this family encapsulates the worst of all hick stereotypes; talking out of the sides of their mouths about God and faith and family, they relentlessly abuse anyone they deem to be an outsider  with the zest and glee of a bunch of Miss Hannigans and seek vengeance with impunity.  There’s no dimension to their behavior, and there’s very little about them that’s commendable or redeemable, so that eventually their cardboard evil becomes wearing.  Jesse has his moments of reason, and Mabel loves her sons, but they’re too cruel to be believed sometimes, especially anti-intellectual, slovenly dad, Buck.  The stereotyping got so bad that I kept waiting for an incest plot to descend and I was not shocked when they were revealed to be moonshining Klan members.As for Daisy, she seemed very much the typical moppet. Not much about her really stands out to make her special, although her average ‘kidness’ definitely makes the danger surrounding her seem all the more frightening.But Adah, ultimately, is what kept me reading; her steely determination to survive Kentucky, the Branches and even the murder rap descending over her.  She’s steady, smart and worthwhile, which makes being in her head for the entirety of the novel a treat at its toughest points.One other character surfaces later in the novel to add interesting layers to the proceedings; Esther, an indomitable school board member and spinster who has a near-businesslike hope of marrying Jesse and finally establishing a household of her own.  As for Adah’s romance with Jack, which is consummated through food metaphors, it’s charming and well, hungry, but very fraught.Ultimately The River Widow works as a character study, a story of strength and of determination, and survival from abuse.  It’s a satisfying read that will haunt you, fill you with tension and leave you with hope.Buy it at: AmazonVisit our Amazon Storefront
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The River Widow was so sad and depressing. Imagine killing your abusive husband and letting his body wash away in a flooding river. Rid of him at last, but wait. Now, you are forced to live with his horrible abusive family for the sake of your stepdaughter. It's such a no win situation. The story felt full of despair. It's not the story itself, it's just my feelings about it.It's a great piece of historical fiction. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Emotional story of a woman who marries into the wrong family in the early twentieth century. She accidentally kills her abusive husband and is forced to live with his family in the aftermath. She is tied to her fate since her husband's daughter with a previous wife is the anchor that keeps her there. She plots for a way out of a horrendous situation in a period of history where woman had little rights. Solid read.
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I really liked the concept of this book. It is a little more on the psychological end of the spectrum than on action. I normally love this type of novel but this one was just okay. I cannot pinpoint what made the book just okay and as a result I would not tell anyone to not read this book. I think most people would enjoy it.
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A feeling of being rushed, a set of characters that didn't fit the narrative, a list of questions that ran amuck, a storyline involving a farm that went on far too long.
There was just too much thrown in this one for me to get involved as it seemed less would be certainly more in this case.
The River Widow centers around the Great Depression and the struggles to survive. The main character Adah was orphaned at a young age and had to carry on alone struggling daily for mere survival.
In 1937 Adah Branch felt she had no other choice but to end it all but not for herself-NO- she ended her abusive husbands life for good by throwing him in the river in hopes of keeping her step daughter safe from the other Branch members.
However, they know she killed Lester and they want revenge well, all but one you could say.
There's one in particular that has taken a liking to Adah and she to him and so the story goes will she choose love or family?
Thank you to Ann, the publisher, NetGalley, and Aldiko for this arc in exchange for this honest review.
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Once I started it, I could not put this book down!  Adah is married to an abusive husband and living with him and her stepdaughter on a farm on the Paducah River.  During the big flood of 1937, Adah kills her abusive husband and lets his body float away as though he was simply lost in the flood.

After the flood, she is stuck living with his horrible family so that she can be with her stepdaughter, Daisy.  She constantly endures verbal abuse from them, and they suspect she murdered their son.

Adah was such a real character to me.  I could feel her inner struggle of wanting to save herself while not wanting to leave behind the child she loves as her own.

Loved it
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I was disappointed by this book. I had such high hopes but it let me down. The story didn’t sit easy with me and upset me at times 
It also felt so unrealistic at times
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I absolutely adored this book. It was a very sad, yet hopeful, story. A story of horrible abuse. Death. Being degraded at every turn. Child abuse. And a budding, strong, unmistakeable love in the making. 

Adah went to hell and back for a man who swept her off her feet to only end up treating her so bad. Abusing her at every turn. Almost killing her until she finally fought back. She calls herself a murderer throughout this book but in my opinion she’s a strong survivor. She went from that to living with his parents who hated her and his child, Daisy, who was Adah’s stepdaughter. She had raised Daisy from an infant and loved her as if she was her own child. Daisy loved her with all her heart and much to the Branches dismay called her mama. They tried to stop her from saying that but she kept on. They had an unbreakable bond of such strong love. It made my heart break and feel elated. Adah would do anything for that child. Even give up her own happiness. Her chance for love. That is what I call true, complete love.

There are a few questions in this book that you’ll find answers too. Did Lester kill his first wife or was their story the truth? That is a big one. Will Adah get away from the Branches or will they succeed in breaking her? Will she go to prison for murder? Will Adah find love and happiness, she sure deserves it.

I had to give this book 5 stars even though I wanted so much more at the end. I can only hope there will be a sequel that will tell us what happens next. I can’t wait to read more by this wonderful author

Thank you to NetGalley, Lake Union and Ann Howard Creel for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion and review. This is my opinion and is not in any way swayed by receiving an ARC.

A few of my favorite parts of this book are:
 Beyond the moon, there were millions of twinkling stars in the sky. Adah sighed and closed her eyes. What had happened between Daisy and her was as insignificant as one tiny star in the vastness of all space, but it was, like each one of those shining lights, beautiful and special. A gift had fallen into her lap in the form of Daisy, and she had to be ever so careful what she did with it. She was the girl’s only hope.
 
Jack pulled in a deep breath, as if inhaling the moment with her. “It’s a good feeling, having a place of your own. I was once like you-full of doubt. But this place has been good for me. It takes all my thinking and keeps me from drifting.”

There wasn’t a touch of dishonesty in his eyes. And the look on his face was so sweet, spelling out clearly his devotion, admiration, everything good and real. “Yes, I care. I care what he did to you and what he did to his first wife. You acted in self-defense. The way I see it, Lester Branch got his just due.”

He touched her arm, and his calloused hand moved smoothly down her hand, which he cradled and brought to his chest. Nothing else needed to be sad with words. They stood like that amidst a bed of clover on a forest floor while the sounds of life around them returned, and creatures darted between the trees.

Although she labored to keep her sorry curled inside, there were to many moments when it pushed itself out beyond the boundaries she’d tried to build. When she looked at Daisy, she could keep it separate, outside. But when she gazed beyond the window and thought of him, it burned to life inside her.

Jack had once said that forgetting was the only way to get past all the bad things in life, and Adah hoped that he would forget about the short chapter of his life that had featured her. If not, when he looked back on the season of romance, would he feel grateful or regretful? Would he view it as luminous and lovely or colored with confusing shadows and shades? There would be pain in his heart, as there was in hers, and she knew that hurt could cripple and bring one down to a place where up seemed impossibly high and out of reach...

Her hands were lined and scarred and looked older than her thirty-one years. They had read cards and cooked and scrubbed and carried wood. They had turned the pages of books, touched love, and been betrayed by it. They had touched death, too.
Now they held a human life.
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The River Widow is a disturbing, heartrending and somewhat  depressing thriller. The setting is during the Great Depression in Kentucky. Adah is a young woman who is trapped in an abusive marriage. The storyline includes abuse, fear, guilt, murder, love, cruelty, manipulation and some downright awful people. It was a rather uncomfortable book for me to read. It’s probably a good read for some people but not for me. 
I was provided an Advance reader copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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I don't know why I had trouble connecting with this book. The plot and story line were very compelling, but something just did not work for me. I went in with no expectations, but just could not connect - there were not many likable characters, the love seemed to blossom too quickly, without a backing. It was beautiful, but cheesy. Where I should have felt suspense, I was more eager to reach the end. It was mediocre for me unfortunately.
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Set during the Great Depressions, The River Widow is a rather depressing thriller. It's always a little hard with historical fiction mixed with a thriller. Adah's had a hard life, her entire life. While reading Tarot cards, she meet what she feels is her dream man. Sadly, her psychic abilities failed to show her his true nature.

Frankly, this is an uncomfortable book to read. Domestic abuse, murder and on top of all of that, Adah's in laws are just..awful people. This isn't a book that leaves a warm feeling inside of you.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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"The River Widow" takes place in depression-era Kentucky and opens with the 1937 Ohio River Valley flood.  As they try to escape the rising waters, Adah is once again beaten by her husband Lester.  In self defense, she hits him with a shovel and inadvertently kills him.  Homeless and at the mercy of her cruel, controlling, manipulative in-laws, Adah cares for her young step-daughter, Daisy, the best she can while trying to find a way out for both of them.  The book explores themes of fear and guilt as the result of repeated abuse; I was intrigued by the story and wanted to find out what happens in the end.  However, it was difficult at times, to get there.  I found some of the dialogue rather cheesy especially that of Jack, one of the folks Adah turns to for help and who becomes a romantic interest.  I also didn't think Daisy's character was very well developed.  She is a central figure in Adah's life and the main reason Adah wants to escape, yet I finished the book feeling like, other than her dysfunctional circumstances, I didn't know anything about Daisy.  I would have liked the author to develop Daisy's relationship with Adah on a deeper level. Even Adah’s new love interest didn’t add to the depth of either character. Although many of the characters in "The River Widow" are not very likable, I would have enjoyed the book more had there been more substance to them, likable or not.
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Remember while you are reading that this is set during the Depression, when women did not have a lot of options.  Adah has had a miserable life and it just gets worse.  Orphaned, an abusive husband, an abusive in-law family, not much to hope for. She is, however, devoted to her step daughter Daisy.  She also finds love.  My quibble with this is that it crams a lot into a fairly short novel.  The end was frustrating for me.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. I've liked books by this author in the past and I'm sure I'll like her again in the future.
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It's 1937 with flood waters appriaching.Adah is carrying  items out of the house she wants to save. Lester,her husband,punches her when she chooses the wrong  items .She fights back and hits him with a shovel.She drags her husband's dead body to the river to let flood waters take it away.Adahs  parents died of the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.Adah is accidently  swept into the raging flood waters. Adah recalls when she first met her husband,She told him his future through  tarot cards ignoring the bad cards and omen and decided to date him.Once Adah tryed to leave her husband but he tracked her down.Which answered my questions of why didn't Adah leave was it the olden times or Lester fighting her to stay.I liked Adah from the very beginning. She was tougher then she believed she was,"She hadn't deserved his beatings ,but he hadn't deserved to die an unnatural death.Over and Over she had to remind herself that it was done,that it could not be changed ,that death was permanent . " Lester has a daughter from his first marriage named Daisy. I felt bad for Daisy how Lester and his family treated her.Daisy loved Adah and viewed her as her MaMa.
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It could have been a new beginning, but it becomes a fearsome battle for her life and that of her stepdaughter when Adah Branch kills her violent husband. It’s 1937, and there is nowhere for a woman being abused by her husband to turn, so after Adah accidentally kills her husband, she sees the rising flood waters as away to dispose of his body, but she is caught in the torrent of water herself. She manages to survive, but it’s not long before her dead husband’s violent family tries to exact their revenge on Adah and her stepdaughter, Daisy.  Adah is a strong and determined woman at a time when women were at the mercy of their husbands or fathers. Her struggle to free herself and her stepdaughter from abuse makes this a powerful read
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A beautiful story of what a mother will do for the sake of a child, even a child who isn’t her own, but one she has chosen as her own. 


The River Widow is a tragic and heartbreaking novel by best selling author Ann Howard Creel set in the Great Depression during the time of the flood in Paducah, Kentucky. Adah is a young woman who finds herself trapped in an abusive marriage. While they are packing to escape from the flooding river in Paducah, Kentucky during the Great Depression her husband becomes angry, and begins to beat her. Adah defends herself, striking at him with a shovel, and accidentally kills him. While attempting to dispose of his body in the flooded river Adah is swept away by the raging current. She clings to life on the roof of an old barn, and is rescued by a father and son. Desperate to know if her husband has been found, she requests to search for him, but they are unable to find him. With no family, and no where else to go Adah is left with no choice but to move in with her husband’s family with her stepdaughter Daisy. They treat her with suspicion and hate, accusing her of murdering Lester. 
With a crooked police officer on their side, Adah not only fears for her life, but is wrought with grief, and guilt over Lester’s death.

“What kind of people would sacrifice a little girl’s happiness in order to get revenge?” 

Despite rumors that Lester’s first wife’s death was no accident, the town’s people are too afraid of the Branches’ cruel and violent reputation to reach out to Adah. She is on her own, risking her very life to shield the child she loves from people who care nothing for her. 

After solving the mystery of Betsy’s death, Adah begins to make plans to leave with Daisy, but discovers that the Branch’s have been baiting her, expecting her to do exactly what she has been scheming to do. She loses all hope, and abandons her plans, until one dark stormy night, when she gets her chance. 

‘’She had but one moment to decide, one moment to leave, or she would miss her chance—one moment to choose the course of the rest of her life and Daisy’s.’’
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