Member Reviews

Thanks to NetGalley and The Dial Press for this ARC. I thought this book was a crime thriller but it primarily centers around a family tragedy and how it's impacted two sisters. I found the book to drag and felt it didn't have a clear focus. Every time I thought it would zero in on something it then veered off in another direction. I was more than half way into the book and was still waiting for something momentous to happen. I found the story to be really heart wrenching Sadly, I was just happy to finish reading it.

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I'm always a fan of grit lit and this certainly fits the category. You can almost see the pervasive gloom around the characters. I got bogged down in it for awhile, but I'm glad I stuck with it. The writing is tight and the characters are explored in great depth. And though it is a mystery, it lacks a lot of the obvious characteristics of the usual mystery and one can almost forget... until the ending. I'm not sure if the ending is strong or weak, but the detailed descriptions of both place and person will stay with me for quite some time. And that's the sign of a good book for me.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. There's a lot to unpack here.

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really good mystery and character building was spot on. Learned more justice system. It was nice to get to know them

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This was great. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for my honest review

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Thank you Netgalley. This was such an engrossing read!! The storyline and characters were well done and I was swept away. I am definitely looking forward to more from this author. Highly recommend

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I am in the minority on this book i guess. The reviews are all great but for me it was a very sloooow read. I kept waiting for more to happen.

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It's been quite cold here lately, and KNIFE RIVER was a great companion through the chilly days. I kept thinking that this novel would make a great TV show — I could see how each scene would play out in my mind's eye, which I think is indicative of Champine's evocative scene-setting. And while I haven't experienced a loss like a mother going missing, I felt like each main character's actions were understandable. I didn't see the final twist coming exactly, and the final pages felt satisfying. Add this to your summer thriller TBR!

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ARC review - publishing date 5/28/24.

3.5 stars rounded down. I went into this thinking it was a cold case/murder mystery vibe, and while there is an unsolved case involved this is more of a family drama and exploration of grief. The first 35% or so is extremely slow, but once things picked up I was really invested! I enjoyed the characters and the author's depiction of two very different ways of coping with trauma. Really great for a debut novel.

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#KnifeRiver #NetGalley
A thrilling ride. ,5 ⭐
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 had done: 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 after their mother’s disappearance, she gets the call she’s been bracing for: Her mother’s remains have been found. Jess returns to find Knife River—and her sister—frozen in time. The town is as claustrophobic and rundown as ever. Liz still lives in their childhood home and has become obsessed with unsolved missing persons cases. Jess plans to stay only until they get some answers, but their mother’s bones, exposed to the elements for so long, just leave them with more questions. As Jess gets caught up in the case and falls back into an entanglement with her high school girlfriend, her understanding of the past, of Liz, of their mother, and of herself become more complicated—and the list of theories more ominous.
I loved it so much especially its ending. Wow what an experience.
Thank you NetGalley and Random House for giving me an advance copy.

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Thanks to Net Galley and Random House for the eARC.

When Jess was thirteen, her mother went for a walk and did not return - now, fifteen years later, bones have been discovered in the woods nearby.

Jess's sister has remained in their childhood home - her life, their home and the town itself seemingly frozen in time. As days turn into weeks, Jess's understanding of the past, her sister, and herself become more and more complicated.

Being the eldest of three sisters, I will always have a huge interest in sisterly novels and this one did not disappoint. Jess and Liz will need to work together for the closure of their mother's disappearance and death in order to move forward with their lives, but old habits die hard.

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This was a good read with well-developed characters. I had moments when I couldn't connect to the main character, but soon realized that was totally appropriate. Her Mom disappeared when she was young, she was forced to hide her sexuality in her hometown, and she has a long history of fragmented relationships. When I really challenged myself to be in her shoes, I started to get it. This isn't a twisty, edge-of-your-seat murder mystery. It is far more subtle.

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Knife River introduces 28-year-old Jess attempting to live a more exciting life than her small-town upbringing could provide, especially given that 15 years ago, her mother disappeared and no one has been able to uncover what happened. When Jess’ older sister, Liz, who has stayed in the house they grew up in, calls to inform her that their mother’s body has been discovered, Jess returns home and ends up dealing with even more confusion than she expected.

I really enjoyed the tone and pacing of this story–less focus on the “mystery” itself and more contemporary fiction with a healthy dose of drama and intrigue. I was initially disappointed by the lack of a traditional mystery-novel structure, but by the end, I was captivated by the intimate portrayal of the often-difficult family dynamics and the slow rebuilding of the sisters’ friendship. Jess’ tension with her former high school girlfriend played out so well as they reconnect, while also dually scrutinizing, earnestly and uncontrived, the experience of growing up queer. Top off the tension with the backdrop happenings of small town America and I’m hooked.

Right from the prologue, I was sucked in–quick and to the point, yet so full of detail and intrigue. This really caught my attention because I rarely find a prologue that feels important enough without being too overt. The sense of loss is laid out right from the jump and certainly sustained throughout the whole story. As someone who has experienced quite a bit of loss in my 28-years of life, I felt so connected to Jess and the often mundane way her losses permeated every thought and decision she has made (and continues to make). Her sister as well–they showcase how the obsession of loss can worm its way into every part of your life unless you actively don’t let it.

At some points, though, I was a little bored with the lack of mystery given that is essentially what the plot circles around. I wanted more of a build up, and while the answers we receive make sense with what we come to know of this town, it felt a little rushed without much lead up. Still, the emotional nature of this story and the heart of the characters is what shines through and makes this a great read for drama fans.

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A beautiful story of two sisters, Jess & Liz, looking for long lost answers to what happened to their mother. Jess returns to her small town where things seem to never change. What unfolds is not only a mystery but a lovely story of reconnection and healing. There were so many ups and downs and as the story neared the end I couldn’t help racing to find out what happened. This book just rips your heart apart and then mends it back together slowly.

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Natalie Fairchild walked out of her house and never returned, leaving her then teenage daughters alone to fend for themselves and enter a 15-year long waiting period – waiting for word of their mother’s whereabouts, waiting for answers to their questions, waiting for something, or anything, to happen. Then…

“Her bones were discovered by a group of children playing in the woods.”

The discovery brought Jess, now 28, back to Knife River, a town that looked and acted much like it had when she left and began her unrooted life bouncing from one relationship to another, one home to another, one family to another. Her sister Liz, now 33, reacted oppositely to her mother’s disappearance – staying in her childhood home, never changing routine, and growing more and more obsessed with solving her mother’s vexing disappearance and then death.

Upon returning, Jess sees the characters of her past through new lenses, wondering which of them might be a killer living in plain sight.

“He was just in the fabric of my memory of this place — one of the many threads making up the tapestry of a life beginning, the things you don't dwell much on but couldn't forget if you tried: a loose floorboard, identical at first glance to all the rest, under which treasures could be hidden. What branches on a certain tree in your old yard lent themselves to climbing. The face of a woman who doled out lunch in the school cafeteria the way hanging folds of purplish, creepy skin nearly covered her eyes. Bill was somewhere in that tapestry for me, a figure in the background, digging around in the trunk of his blue van.“

Other “threads” included a former love, a long-time suspect, a kindly and quiet neighbor, a former coworker, and many more.

The town is painted with a worn out and colorless brush, which amplifies the feeling of returning to a place that is not changing, growing, moving or progressing. Liz and Jess may appear they are dealing with their circumstances in different ways, but they are both stuck at the same point in their history. It’s not until the case closes that the sisters’ lives finally gain forward momentum.

At times, the story is bogged down with extraneous details of the town, the atmosphere, or just philosophizing in general, but overall the story is captivating, the characters and town are relatable, the suspense is real, and the mystery has depth. Knife River is an entertaining read, which I can confidently recommend, and a strong debut for Justine Champine.

Thank you to The Dial Press for the ARC of this book through NetGalley, which I received in return for my honest review. Review will be published to Goodreads on the tentative publication date of May 28, 2024.

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Jess returns to her hometown of Knife River when her mother's body is discovered fifteen years after her disappearance. This book grabbed my attention from the start, but then dragged as months in Knife River went on with little progress on the mystery or with character development. The ending was ultimately satisfying; I would recommend only if you are willing to take a very slow journey to get there.
Thank you to The Dial Press for providing this book for review consideration via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you to The Dial Press and Net Galley for providing me an ARC of this book to review!

I went into this thinking it was a queer thriller, and I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I hadn't had that initial mindset. While the book does technically revolve around cold case murder, it's certainly not a fast paced, scary story.

One thing I think the author really does well is her portrayal of the complete feeling of hopelessness and feeling stuck that comes with intense grief. I also really appreciated that they captured this feeling without the story itself becoming stagnant.

The 'twist' at the end wasn't too surprising, and it did feel a little too close to the final chapter for me. However, I did like how the book wrapped up in the end.

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This is completely stunning--the sharp exacting sentences, the thrilling plot. This book feels so special. I loved the voice. It's absolutely heart stopping.

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So I actually didn't even know that this was the author's debut novel until I got to the last page, which I thought was cool. I am already looking forward to the next book from the author!
In 2010, the body of Natalie Fairchild is found after she has been missing for fifteen years. With the discovery of her body, we follow Jess who comes down to Knife River and there, reunites with her sister Liz, who has never left Knife River.
Although her body has been found, the police have absolutely no interest in helping the sisters with the cold case. With the past trudging up old and new things, Jess is forced to confront who she is and how her mother's disappearance really affected her as well as her sister.
I am such a sucker for true crime, so whenever I picked this book up, I really couldn't put it down.

Thank you to Dial Press, the author Justine Champine, and NetGalley for this Arc. It was such a pleasure reading it!

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Aww, I’m going to miss spending time with some of these characters! Hmm…Knife River might be one of my favorite books I’ve read this year, and it might be one to re-read. I think it will appeal to a wide audience. It’s actually hard to think of a reader I *wouldn’t* recommend this to, but I hope/expect that Knife River will see a lot of love from literary fiction fans in particular. It’s lovely and emotional and — oh!, ha! — one delightfully hilarious little passage cracked me up, in the dark, while reading at 1am. I am already eager to read whatever Justine Champine creates next! Thank you to Random House Publishing Group for the DRC of Knife River, which I requested after seeing it praised by an author I admire. Publishes May 28, 2024.

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Wow - I absolutely loved this novel! In my opinion, this was one of my better reads of the year. It was relatable, poignant, and well written. I would not classify this as suspense or as a triller though. It was more of a slow burning domestic drama.

Jess and Liz’s mother disappears in their adolescent/teenage years. Told from Jess’ point of view, Knife River is a true journey of self discovery.

The characters are deeply derived and written. The location is familiar. The story line is interesting. The ending was perfection.

Although this book was a slow burn and not filled with twists and turns, it has stuck with me a lot more than most.

I highly recommend giving Knife River your attention!

Thank you to NetGalley and The Dial Press for the opportunity to read this ARC before its intended release date in May of 2024.

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