Cover Image: Knife River

Knife River

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Dial Press and Net Galley for the advanced reader copy of this book, my opinions are my own.

I enjoyed this extremely well-written debut thriller. Jess, a woman in her late 20s, drifting somewhat aimlessly through life, gets a call from her sister informing her the remains of their mother--missing since she was 13--have been found. Jess journeys back to Knife River in upstate NY,, a town seemingly frozen in time, to a past she thought she left behind. What follows is a story about self introspection..how their mother's disappearance profoundly affected both sisters and the life choices they made, and continue to make.

Book was beautifully written but very slow in parts. There was a whole section where Jess dwells on her sexuality, which I didn't necessarily think was central to the plot and would've been fine without it. However, the ending more than made up for it.

Would recommend.

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After the mysterious disappearance of their mother, Liz and Jess have gone their separate ways. Liz , stuck in the past, stayed in Knife River hoping her mother would return someday. Jess running away from the situation as soon as she could. Each stuck in their own way. It’s been fifteen long years since their mother disappeared. Years of not knowing what happened, stunted years stuck without answers, but when bones are found, Jess heads back to Knife River. The two are now on a quest for answers, but will the bones tell the story they so desperately need, or is it too late for closure? Thank you to Dial Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

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A meandering tale of Jess and her older sister Liz as they struggle to come to terms with the discovery of what may have happened to their mother years after her disappearance. Just as they believe their mother's killer is brought to justice, an unexpected twist in the story left this reader feeling a bit dissatisfied with the ending. It seemed as if there was a lot of building up to a fairly big let down in the end.

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"Knife River" by Justine Champine is a haunting and emotional novel about Jess, who has been haunted by her mother's mysterious disappearance since she was thirteen. Fifteen years later, living an aimless life, Jess is forced to confront her past when her mother's remains are discovered.

Champine masterfully captures the pain of unresolved grief and the complexities of sisterhood. The small-town setting adds depth to this poignant story of loss, survival, and the search for closure. "Knife River" is a compelling and beautifully written read that lingers long after the last page.

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This was a “would you like to read” from Random House and the description was intriguing enough that I had to say yes. And while it was a mystery (it begins with the discovery of a skull), it is so much more than that. It is also about how differently people handle tragedy and grief and not just the sisters, Liz and Jess whose lives are completely upended when their mother disappears after going for a walk one day, but also the people close to them and their mother.

The book was very, very real to me. So much so that at one point I had to look up the author (I was completely satisfied with her knowledge). The ending is worth the trip because by the end of the book you understand completely why Jess does what she does as well as the choices made by other characters. Definitely worth the read!

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ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed the premise of this story! It’s about a girl returning to her hometown to see her sister after being gone for many years. They had a difficult childhood since their mother disappeared when they were young and they struggled to fend for themselves. Suspicions also emerged regarding their mother’s disappearance and subsequent murder. I found it intriguing and thought provoking, and it was beautifully written. I would recommend to anyone who likes mysteries and family drama!

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Jess is called back to Knife River when the remains of her mother, who disappeared fifteen years ago, are discovered. Jess moves back in and reconnects with her older sister, gets reacquainted with the small town life she fled, and gets frustrated with the lack of urgency she and her sister experience with the investigation.

There's a good story here, but it's buried under pages and pages of Jess's inner thoughts. A conversation may have three lines of dialogue but covers three pages because we must explore with Jess every ramification and every memory before she can respond. I found it tiresome, and not that interesting, to be in her head. The story meandered and we were in two star territory until Champine delivered on the ending.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC.

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This queer literary thriller (yes, another one!) leaned into the “literary” half of its genre in its compassionate and nuanced portrayal of a fraught sibling relationship and the discomfort of coming home to a small town you thought you’d escaped a long time ago.

The main character, whose mother disappeared when she was a child, returns to her family’s home (and her older sister) after remains, believed to be her mother’s, are found. The character study parts of this, and the protag’s relationship with her sister and her high school ex-girlfriend, are definitely the high point; she’s very human and very well-written.

The central mystery does end up solved (I won’t say how), but I actually think the book would have been better if it had remained a mystery; the inhabiting of liminal spaces is really where the story shines. Without spoilers, though, the end resolves in a way which is not at all unclear, and very satisfying. Recommended!

Thank you to The Dial Press and Netgalley for the advance copy!

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Fifteen years later, Jess gets the phone call she has been dreading. Her missing mother's body has been found. Heading back to her hometown, Jess along with her sister Liz, are determined to find out what happened.

This debut book was pretty good. I found myself quite interested in the story of the girl's mother and was keen to know why she disappeared. I loved getting to know the two sisters with their different personalities. I did feel that the story did stagnate a little in the middle and maybe in this way, it might have been a little longer than it needed to be. I don't normally go for slow burn thrillers but with this mystery, I felt the slow buildup helped. It was a shame the story didn't keep developing throughout. Overall though, this was a decent read. I am eager to see what the author writes next.

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Thank you Random House and NetGalley for the ARC!

Knife River was a dark and twisty mystery that keeps you guessing from the very beginning! Admittedly, it was a little too dark for me, as I generally do not like to read about murder. If you are a fan of thrillers and mysteries, this will likely be the book for you!

Thank you again for the ARC!

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This was a fantastic debut. It was quiet. Descriptive. This was not literary thriller/mystery. It was a story of grief and family. My only qualms was that sometimes the author lost herself in the first person narrative. But overall would recommend highly.

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This was a feminist, suspenseful, and well written literary mystery. I really enjoy the titles The Dial Press puts out and this was no exception. The writing was atmospheric and evocative and so character driven, unlike many mysteries I read. Really glad I read this.

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What a slow and beautiful burn. Champine's Knife River explores the relationship between Jess and her sister Liz following the discovery of their mother's remains years after her mysterious disappearance. Both sisters' lives have been upended by grief in different ways: Jess left her hometown as soon as she cold, only to find herself jumping from relationship to relationship; Liz still lives in their childhood home, working as a bank teller, her only friend an elderly customer.

Champine focuses on the imperfect relationships between women and complex and differing perspectives of the impact of grief. At times her writing was difficult to follow: there seemed to be a lot of moving parts that felt disjointed, and it was difficult to connect with Jess as a character. That being said, I still found myself racing through the pages, hoping to unravel the mystery alongside these imperfect women.

Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I tend to measure books like this: am I still thinking about those characters a few days later? A few weeks, even? Do I feel a moment of loss when the book comes to an end? Do I feel envy when I recommend the book, knowing that a reader will have the opportunity to be a part of that world for the very first time?

For all of those, KNIFE RIVER is a resounding yes. This beautiful, brilliant book that presents itself as a suspenseful novel about a mother’s disappearance is so much more than that. The writing is lyrical and precise, full of moments that invite you to be fully immersed alongside the characters. And the characters - my goodness, these two sisters. Estranged yet defined by their shared grief, Jess and Liz come together fifteen years after their mother’s sudden disappearance. After remains are discovered in their small town, they’re called again to wait, wait, wait - for closure, for answers, for healing, for justice. As they wait together in their cramped childhood home that’s been kept like a museum since their mother’s disappearance, we learn more about those fifteen years of claustrophobic grief - and how it has shaped who they are and the way they navigate the world. This is a spoiler-free review so I will leave it there but just know that this is not your typical thriller. There’s more here.

KNIFE RIVER is, in many ways, a tribute to the experience of sisterhood. There is queer romance, there is suspense, there is small town atmosphere. It was an unexpected gift to read, and I cannot wait to read more from Justine Champine.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy. All opinions are entirely my own.

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I'm not a big fan of mysteries or thrillers but I was given the opportunity to read Justine Champine's debut novel, Knife River. The cover was beautiful so I thought I would take a chance on something different from the type of book that I normally read. At first, I was skeptical about reading it. After the first few chapters, I got somewhat interested in where the story was going. The only problem was that the story about sisters Jess and Liz dealing with their mother's disappearance progressed at a very slow pace and sometimes seemed a bit tedious. Thanks to Corina Die/Random House for recommending this novel, and NetGalley. I received a complimentary copy of this ebook. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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When Jess was 13, her Mother went for a walk and never returned home. Now, years later, human remains have been found, believed to be her Mother's. She returns home to the Sister and town that she left behind. She finds that is seems as time has stood still and much is the same. She runs into her old girlfriend from high school and try to rekindle their relationship.

This is a good book, a good plot and interesting characters.

Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for the ARC in return for my honest review.

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3.5 stars. An interesting debut. A VERY slow burn mystery. It's not so much a mystery, in my opinion, as it is a story about loss and grief and the burdens we carry with us. Most of the novel focuses on the fractured relationship between sisters Jess and Liz, and Jess's reaction to being back in the small town in which she grew up.

"When Jess was thirteen her mother went for a walk and never returned. Jess and her older sister Liz never found out what happened. Instead, they did what they hoped their mother would do: survive. As soon as she was old enough, Jess fled their small town of Knife River, wandering from girlfriend to girlfriend like a ghost in her own life, aimless in her attempts to outrun grief and confusion. But one morning fifteen years later she gets the call she’s been bracing herself for: Her mother's remains have been found."

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House/Dial Press for the free ARC in eschange for my honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

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2.5 Stars rounded up.

I'm never really drawn to protagonists like Jess and this was no exception. The whole book was depressing and I couldn't wait for it to end. I liked how the ending wrapped it up or it would've been a 1.0 star for me.

Thanks Random House Group via NetGalley for allowing me to read this ARC. I don't think I'll be reading anything else from this author though.

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Good book and story about a woman who disappears, and her daughters never stop trying to find out what happen to her. Lots of theories but no concrete info. While the story and characters were good, I felt like it dragged on and there was too much detail. Not bad for a debut from this author.
Thank you to Netgalley, Random House and the Author, Justine Champine for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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When they were 13 and 18, Jess and Liz's mother went out for a walk one morning and never came back. Now, 15 years later, Liz has barely been back to their town of Knife River and lives a life hopping from girlfriend to girlfriend, never quite able to settle but also never quite able to be alone. Liz has stayed in Knife River all this time, and while she holds a steady job at the local bank, it's clear that she's not doing so great herself - never changing anything about the house, never able to move on from her obsession with a particular person she thinks is responsible for her mother's disappearance. The sisters are barely in touch until one day Jess receives an urgent call from Liz to come home: their mother's remains have been found. What ensues is a look at how they handle the past trauma being dredged up, their continued quest for answers, and the tension between their different approaches to coping. Don't go into this one thinking of it as a thriller, or really even a slow-burn suspense. There's a missing person cold case at the center, but it's much more a character study and an exploration of responses to trauma, particularly of this missing persons variety that has no closure, and particularly the disappearance of a mother. Made me think more of William Landay's All That Is Mine I Carry with Me (minus the perspective shifts/inventive narration style), than a psychological mystery like Tana French or Jane Harper (which I had heard one comparison to) with this focus on siblings who have lost a mother and what that does to their relationship with each other, and with their ability to grow up/live life. It's fairly gritty in feel; I thought it well-written, though the overall feel can be depressing, and sometimes you just want to shake Jess a little... While I appreciated some feelings of redemption toward the end, I was actually a bit disappointed that the redemption was followed with a neater ending than I would have expected after this whole exploration of what a real-life missing-person tragedy is like - a lot of times we don't ever know the whole story, and I thought that might have been a better ending here. I received a free e-copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ★★★.75

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