Member Reviews

This book is a gripping tale about how grief affects many people in different ways. Sisters Jess and Liz are reunited years after their mother's disappearance in their hometown when their mother's remains are found. This book was such a page-turner! Very moving book. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing, and The Dial Press for a copy of this book for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Knife River is the name of a small town where the main characters, Jess and Liz, grew up. Their mother disappeared when they were young and now, years later, her bones have been found. Liz still lives in Knife River and Jess returns to stay with her while the police work on solving the mystery of who killed their mother. Jess and Liz become impatient and decide to work on solving things themselves.

The setting of Knife River lends to a feeling of tension and underlying fear as there are few people living there and he reader learns that it's difficult to know who to trust.

This is a difficult book to categorize, but I would say it would be best described as a combination of slow burn mystery and women's general fiction. The book is written with a kind of literary quality that makes the reader take their time to absorb the material. I enjoyed the quirkiness of the characters and how each sister handled the trauma so differently. This was not a fast read, but an enjoyable one.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #RandomHousePublishing for an eARC of #KnifeRiver by #JustineChampine in exchange for honest feedback.
-4 stars

Was this review helpful?

Knife River by Justine Champine is set up as a thriller/mystery, but I found it more of a coming-of-age story.

Natalie Fairchild left her house for a walk and never returned. Now, 15 years later, her remains have been found and her daughters must come together to find out what happened to their mother.

That, itself, would have been a fantastic story. However, Knife River is more about Jess coming into her sexuality and herself. The homophobia is rampant in Knife River and I feel like that set the atmosphere for the entire book. It was just.....dark and gritty.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review.

Was this review helpful?

This book sounded promising and had an interesting plot. However, as I began reading, the book was so dark and heavy and depressing. I didn't expect a book about a mother's disappearance and murder to be uplifting, but there are skillful ways to convey the seriousness without bringing the entire book down. This book is so much more than a murder mystery - it's a story of relationships - between a mother and daughter, between two sisters, and between two people in a relationship. Maybe because of the mother's disappearance, all of the relationships felt dark to me.

Not my cup of tea, unfortunately.

Was this review helpful?

I will say that I enjoyed the beginning and the end of this book, but I have to say that the middle parts just left me feeling lost. The timeline was disorganized, and the plot lines felt very disjointed. The pacing felt off to me, and I just couldn’t really connect with the characters. I’m sorry to say this one was just not for me. I’m glad I read it because the ending was well done.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Was this review helpful?

I so tried to get into this story but it just didn't hold my attention. I'm sure it's a wonderful novel but just not for me. It felt stilted and uninteresting. I'm sure others will enjoy it.

Was this review helpful?

An emotionally charged, tumultuous and tragic read. A story that brings grief, relationships, and struggles of sexual identity to life with a delicate weaving of words. While it's a crime thriller it is also an intimate look into the characters lives. Full of mystery, secrets, two sisters coming to terms with loss and learning to start again. A good read for those who love crime dramas and mysteries.

Was this review helpful?

I found this book to very slow!! The characters don’t really have much life to them. It’s more of how two sisters dealt with the grief of loosing their mother. It was not a crime thriller to me. It was more of a crime family drama novel. It definitely was not a book that I would recommend unless you like a slow burn, unsolved murder drama. Than maybe this book is more for you
Thank you NetGalley and this is just my opinion

Was this review helpful?

The description of this one sounded interesting, but I have to admit that it wasn’t very interesting. Jess at times was a very annoying character, and I really did not connect with her. I liked Liz a bit better, but she had her frustrating moments, too.

I think this book did relate well to female relationships, but I wanted more from it. I would be interested in reading another book from Champine though!

Was this review helpful?

I would like to mention that did not finish the book but it isn’t because of anything the author did wrong. I feel as though i was not the target audience of this story. Just because that is the reason, it is not to say that this isn’t worth checking out because it is! As a debut novel, Justine Champine deserves her flowers because if I was convinced to pick up this book and read what I could, it may lead others to read it too and hopefully finish. I realize that I won’t ever know the end of the story but maybe in the future I can pick it up again and see if I can finish it. Do read this book if you’re a lover of thrillers!!

Was this review helpful?

A compelling story of family, home, and the bond between sisters that asks: Who do you believe when you can't even trust yourself?

I almost missed my Sunday Spotlight 😵‍💫

This Sunday goes out to the beautiful, Justine Champine.

Somehow I ended up getting my greedy little paws on Knife River and I devoured every last bit of this soon to be bestseller

Champine, not only knows how to spin a murderous tale of deceit but she also includes quite a bit of twists.

Now, I know all of you are incredibly anxious to get your hands on Knife River and all I can do is promise you, it is about to blow your mind and exceed expectations .

Through years of spending hours upon hours with my nose buried in books I have been pickier with my ratings . Knife River is an EASY 5 star

I’ve become a huge fan of Justine Champine, with just having read Knife River. This is the beautiful start to our “book-ship” of sorts.

ready for the wild part? This is a debut!!! ♥️


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.

Knife River is a tense, intimate, and heartrending portrayal of how deeply and imperfectly women love one another: in romantic relationships, in friendships, and especially as sisters.

Was this review helpful?

Knife River comes out May 28, 2024.

Knife River takes place in the small town where Jess and Liz grows up. Jess left town when she was 18 and never came back until Liz called to tell her remains were found and that they were likely belonged to their mother who disappeared 15 years ago.
Once Jess returns home the story follows the sisters as they work through their pasts while trying to figure out what happened to their mother.

I really enjoyed reading Knife River. Knife River had me sitting on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who has killed Jess’s and Liz’s mom. I liked how the sisters were able reconcile after years of being estranged. And I appreciate that Justine touched on how trauma affects people differently.

I still don’t know how I feel about the ending. It just sort of happened and that was it. And I’m not sure I like how Jess didn’t tell Liz about what she learned about their mother’s death especially Liz life was so stagnant due to waiting for their mother to come back.

Overall, I recommend Knife River. If you like murder mysteries I think you’ll enjoy Knife River.

Thanks to Netgalley and The Dial Press for a copy of Knife River in exchange of an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I was able to read this as an ARC from Random House and Netgalley. I really did enjoy the premise of this novel and the characters. This story focused on two sisters Jess and Liz who seemed to be just surviving after their mother's disappearance. They do not have answers as to what happened. Parts of this novel were fast paced and other parts were very drawn out and slow. I did have sympathy for both sisters, and I am glad that they came together to deal with their situation. I was frustrated at the ending of the story though.

Was this review helpful?

A slow burn, atmospheric story of two sisters, who for more than a decade take different paths to cope with their mother's disappearance but ultimately come together to try to solve the case of what happened when they were 13 and 19 years old. Jess, the younger sister, escapes the small town of Knife River but not her fears and the self-loathing that came with deserting her older sister to face their shared demons alone. Liz stayed, trying to solve the case and get closure, living every day in fear of the suspected killer Nick Haines. Her lonely, boring lifestyle as a bank teller gave her solace while she remained in their childhood home, stoking a lingering hope that she would be there to welcome her mother if she ever returned.

A murder mystery at its surface, this is really a layered story about sisterhood, imperfect women, friendships, love and how shifting memories can shape and reshape the legacy of those we think we know and love. The beautiful, and often haunting writing makes the reader feel like they are living every day with Liz and Jess in their has-been, factory town that has been virtually frozen in time.

With Knife River, the reader is taken on a slow, redemptive journey with Liz and Jess, one that is both powerful and immersive until the very last page. Thanks to Net Galley, and The Dial Press for the advanced copy in exchange for my review.

Was this review helpful?

Rating: 4.5 stars

I have not read a book that took over my thoughts like this one has in such a long time. This debut novel by Justine Champine is about two sisters whose mother disappeared fifteen years ago, and the case has never been solved. The older sister, Liz, still lives in the house they grew up in and has kept in touch with law enforcement throughout the years. The younger sister, Jess, left their small, dying town when she was of legal age. Fifteen years later, bones from a body are discovered, and they turn out to be the girl’s mother.

This story is a mystery about a woman’s disappearance and one about two sisters and their relationship, or lack thereof. The author’s detailed use of imagery and description painted a clear picture of the fictional rural town in upstate New York. Growing up in a small town, I know how the politics within a place like this can be.

The two sisters had excellent character development. I cannot imagine what they have felt for the past fifteen years. Every time I took a break from reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel saddened and melancholy because Liz and Jess had been dealt such a poor hand in life. While the book moved slowly, it picked up in the last third of the book. There were clues throughout the story, and new characters were introduced, leading me to ask if they had committed the murder. If you enjoy intense slow-burn mysteries, this is a book for you.

The publisher asked me to participate in a pre-publication book club for Knife River in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion. Discussing with other readers and the publishing team was a fantastic opportunity, and I hope to be able to do that again. Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for that experience.

Instagram: will post to closer to publication date

Was this review helpful?

Five starts for Knife River by Justine Champine

Knife River by Justine Champine is a wonderful and masterful first novel that stays with you long after you finish reading. The book tells the story of two sisters that navigates the grief of their missing mother and the long quest to finally have answers.

The characters were superbly written, the dynamic between the sisters rang true and the town of Knife River is, really, a character in itself too.

The atmosphere the book gives and dark and gritty. It is a slow-burn that goes back and forth between the past and the present so effortlessly.

I found myself thinking about the book in between reading sessions and long after turning the last page.

I would recommend the book to any slow-burn thriller fans, but also for lovers of character studies, and anyone going through grief.

Was this review helpful?

I received a free copy from NetGalley. A little on the slow side, but it did have a few twists. More a novel then a mystery.

Was this review helpful?

I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel. I am normally more of a thriller reader but this family drama about two sisters reuniting 15 years after their mother disappeared (because her bones were finally found) grabbed me from the first chapter and never let go. Great character development and a well paced plot kept me reading straight through and I finished it in two days. I was fully engaged with the first person narrator for the entire book and her struggles with both her family and her romantic relationships were real and believable. The small town setting was almost a character in itself as it informed so much of what happened with the characters. Highly recommended

Thanks to NetGalley and The Dial Press for an advanced reader copy

Was this review helpful?

I was lucky enough to win an e-ARC of KNIFE RIVER by Justine Champine from a Shelf Awareness giveaway. Thank you for the early look, and have a safe and happy weekend!

Was this review helpful?

Wow! How can one book tackle so many deep subjects so well? On an ordinary day, Jess and Liz's mother goes for a walk and never returns. They are left to navigate life alone. Liz dreams of going to college to study but must postpone college to raise her younger sister, Jess. Years later Liz calls Jess to ask her to return home. Their mother's remains have been found. The sisters will deal with the official death of their mother, postponed dreams, and a path forward. Do you mourn someone you lost long ago? Will the community support the girls as they once did?

Knife River takes readers on an adventure much like a white-water rafting experience. You think you know where you're headed, only to find the bottom drop out from under you. Love, loss, sacrifice, delayed coming-of-age, and revenge are all part of this emotional story. Jess and Liz have been in a type of holding pattern waiting for news of their mother. Neither one has fully emotionally matured into an adult. Finally knowing their mother's fate brings closure to the sisters. Realizing they now can move on, Liz and Jess feel the freedom to leave the past and step into their futures.

As the sisters await the cause of death for their mother the question remains - was she killed? If so, who killed her and why? Remember, nothing about this disappearance is as it seems. Enjoy this spine-tingling psychological thriller!!

Was this review helpful?