The River House – Margaret Leroy

Little Brown and Company/2005

By – Sheri de Grom

A murder is central to Margaret Leroy’s novel, The River House. However, the story itself isn’t a murder mystery.

Welcome to my world of reading the complete back-list of Margaret Leroy. Her storytelling techniques are diversified and fascinating.

The River House is my fourth novel of Ms. Leroy’s to read and review. I previously reviewed The Soldier’s Wife, Postcards from Berlin, and                      Yes, My Darling Daughter.                       

Ginnie Holmes is an unhappy mid-forty’s London wife and mother of two daughters, ages sixteen and eighteen. She’s a child psychologist working with troubled children. Her husband, Greg, is a self-absorbed Irish medieval professor with whom she hasn’t had sex in years.

Her eighteen year old daughter, Molly has just left for college and Greg announces he’s moving into Molly’s old room, at least until he’s finished working on the book he’s writing. The book is an anthology of medieval Irish prose and poetry aimed at a general readership.

Ginnie finds herself caught in a passive marriage and she’s increasingly apathetic in the discipline of their sixteen-year-old daughter, Amber. Amber spins out of control, avoiding all responsibilities.

Ginnie works with a young client, Kyle, and she’s had no luck in getting him to respond to her. The child was referred to her by children’s services and Ginnie’s aware there’s also a police file.

After working with young Kyle for weeks and getting nowhere, Ginnie decides to call the man who investigated the case, Detective Will Hampton.

The world changes in an instant for Ginnie when she meets Will to discuss her client, Kyle. Little information is exchanged regarding Kyle but in a brief exchange of words and subtle gestures, the reader knows an intimate relationship between Ginnie and Will is pages away.

Will is open about being married and he’s protective of his other life. The couple begins a one-afternoon-a-week affair. Other than those afternoons, they have no other contact with one another, not even telephone calls.

. . . Pg 102 [I see Will every Thursday through November. It’s cold by the river. When there’s no sun, the water is a harsh color, like metal, with a white skin where it holds the shine of the sky. Some of the trees are bare now; at the side of the path there are soft, dark, drifts of leaves. The balsam is dying back and broken, just a few ragged leaves still clinging, with swollen red knots like injuries on the stems. The ground and the trees are sodden, and we have to take care or the place were we make love will leave their mark on us, and we’ll go back with smears on our clothes from the green velvet algae on the tree trunks, or wet leaves in our hair.] . . .

On one occasion, Ginnie sneaks into an abandoned river house to meet Will. There, Ginnie observes from the window a strange man running along the river bank as if searching for something.

She dismisses the incident until she catches a television spot wherein the police ask for anyone to come forward if they’ve seen the man.

Will tells her she can’t go to the police. Their relationship would come out and he could lose his job plus his marriage would be ruined. Ginnie knows her own marriage would be over but she doesn’t have an honest one anyway. She can’t stand the thought of giving up Will. She’s allowed her life to become one of living for Thursday afternoon.

. . . Pg 172 [“Look, you know I love you,” he says.

“I love you to,” I tell him.

He puts his hand on mine.

“You’ll just forget all about this?”

I nod.

I think for a moment—what happens to people like us, to secret lovers, at the end of the affair? How do you keep going? You’d be plunged into all that grief, and you’d never be able to show it, ever, ever. What happens, then?

“Next week?” he says.

“Yes, please . . .”

He smiles at the please.

I watch him go. The melted frost on the glass has a cold glitter. I watch his grace as he walks down the path and out of the winter garden and away from me.] . . .

Ginnie Holmes as written by Margaret Leroy could be any forty-something woman tossed about by internal struggles. In Ginnie’s case, she’s a smart and sensible woman and, like so many others, she finds herself risking her marriage and her children as she loses herself in a tempestuous affair. Will she reveal the secret of the strange man she saw by the river house knowing it may solve a murder but ruin her life?

The River House by Margaret Leroy is an artfully told story of epic reaches within the confines of a mere three-hundred pages. There’s enough family dynamics to keep a room of therapists busy dissecting motives for a full week and still not reach a consensus.

One of the things I like the most about Margaret Leroy’s storytelling is that it’s always open to interpretation. Each reader will take away a different experience. Again, on this my fourth Margaret Leroy novel, I offer you my unconditional recommendation to read and discuss this novel. You cannot go wrong. It’s perfect for individuals and book club discussions alike.  

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. Hello Patty – The River House is an entertaining read plus Margaret Leroy has such a delightful way with words — I always enjoy her storytelling. I hope winter is being kind to you. Sheri

  2. thoughtsfromanamericanwoman says:

    Another book to add to my list!! Sounds good, thanks for the review.

  3. Sheryl says:

    I enjoyed the wonderful review. The book sounds really good.

    • Sheryl – Margret Leroy writes with multiple layers and allows the reader to unwrap her characters as if it were Christmas morning. It’s one of the many things I love about her storytelling. I wish she would come out with a new book. I still have others to read from her back-list, but I’m also ready to integrate a new novel.

  4. Mae Clair says:

    Definitely a novel with a tough quandry. You did a great job, as always, of presenting it!

    • Mae – I’ve come to appreciate the many differences in the ways Margaret Leroy elects to convey her stories. She always leaves me thinking and to me – that’s a wonderful trait for any writer to leave with a reader. I want every author to open my mind and allow open thoughts of my own to come in.

  5. Oooooh, this one sounds good, Sheri. I’m going to look for it for my Kindle. Thank you for the great review. I want to know what Ginnie ends up doing. Cool.

  6. Sheri, I have come to look forward to all your reviews. I know when I read them, I will find another captivating and well written book. This one is particularly interesting to me … bordering on romantic suspense, a hint of murder, and the subtle nuances of a family in trouble. Great recommendation … thanks 🙂

    • Florence – I thought of you while reading this novel of Margaret Leroy. She lays out the the story in such a way that there’s multiple mysteries in the reader’s mind before the murder occurs. IMO, she is an amazing writer — you do have to pick away at the layers. As always, thanks for stopping by.

  7. sounds wonderful…thank you for the review

  8. That was an excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing it. I really enjoyed reading it very much. You have a wonderful day!

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