2023 Reviews · historical fiction · new release

New Release Book Review: Go as a River by Shelley Read

Title: Go as a River

Author: Shelley Read

Published: March 7th 2023

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 368

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 5 stars

For fans of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, GREAT CIRCLE: lush, immersive, soaring tale of a young woman’s journey to becoming, of love and loss, home and resilience, and finding those where least expected, and a breathtaking exploration of our connection to nature

On a cool autumn day in 1948, Victoria Nash delivers late-season peaches from her family’s farm set amid the wild beauty of Colorado, then heads into the village. As she nears an intersection, a dishevelled stranger stops to ask her the way. How she chooses to answer will unknowingly alter the course of both their young lives.

So begins the mesmerising story of split-second choices and courageous acts that propel Victoria away from the only home she has ever known and towards a reckoning with loss, hope and her own untapped strength.

Gathering all the pieces of her small and extraordinary existence, spinning through the eddies of desire, heartbreak and betrayal, she will arrive at a single rocky decision that will change her life for ever.

GO AS A RIVER is a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettable characters and a breathtaking natural setting, it is a sweeping story of survival and becoming, of the deepest mysteries of love, truth and fate.


“Go as a river,” I whispered to her, as Wil might have done, and, I swear, I felt her spirit rise.

A sprawling yarn that captures the visceral beauty of our natural world in a merciful tone, Go as a River is a debut slice of fiction inspired by real events and marked encounters from Colorado based lecturer Shelley Read. A tale of grit, determination, survival, love, hope and ardour, Shelley Read’s magnificent opening novel is a story that made my soul ache.

Following the incredible and wild journey of central character Victoria Nash, Go as a River is a vivid coming of age tale. We witness a young Victoria embark on a simple errand that changes her life forever. While making her way on the family wagon to town, Victoria encounters a figure who asks her for directions. This exchange will mark Victoria’s life for years to come. After Victoria spends time with this stranger, he leaves her with an unforgettable message and something else. Go as a River is a tapestry of secrets, subsistence, devotion, agony and reconciliation, honouring the unique life of Victoria Nash.

Described as completely spellbinding by respected contemporary fiction author Jane Green, Go as a River quickly caught my eye. I have been searching for that one special novel that captures the beauty and affective tone of unforgettable stories such as The Great Alone, Where the Crawdads Sing and The Marsh King’s Daughter. These are some of my all time favourite novels that have refused to leave my side, even though I finished reading them years ago. Go as a River is a book that falls into the same category as these great masterpiece novels and I am beyond excited to share this one with my followers.

Firstly, I am shocked that Go as a River is the very first novel written by natural storyteller Shelley Read. The prose and use of language is poised, well positioned and persuasive. I was soon engulfed by the magic, beauty and natural stage of Read’s first novel. A genuine connection to the landscape is clear in this story from the opening and Read excels in delivering many eloquent passages of prose connected to her setting. I was placed in the front seat of Go as a River, witnessing the action of Victoria’s amazing and heartbreaking journey, thanks to Read’s immersive narrative. I could also easily picture the background, the time period and events of this tale which is all down to Read’s writing. What emerges from the depths of this life changing fable is a close study of youth, upbringing, family, honour, dignity prejudice, racism, shame, truth, mystery, secrets and war. There is a broad focus on motherhood in its many guises. Go as a River really made me think hard about my feelings about loss, protection, the pressures of motherhood, absence, adoption and heritage. These are all emotionally charged themes that stirred up plenty of feelings in my heart.

Victoria Nash is a fierce but also gentle, compassionate and inspiring lead character. I feel privileged to have been touched by her presence. Tough, resourceful, respectful, vulnerable and passionate, I developed a strong sense of respect for Victoria. This young woman’s passage to adulthood is something rather extraordinary, I can’t believe Victoria survived all that is thrown at her. As this incredible expedition unfurls, we are blessed but also shocked by all that befalls this central protagonist. Along the way there are figures that both enrich and destroy Victoria’s life. I was sensitive to Victoria’s plight and although her story was sad, it was utterly bewitching. What I took from this treasured story is the impact of a chance meeting in changing our lives so dramatically. Although I did struggle in the initial stages of the novel to full connect with the story at hand, I am glad I persisted as I was gifted with a tale that I will never forget.

A lustrous treasure that will gently remind you of belonging, forgiveness, love, destiny, broken lives, trying circumstances, grief, tribulation and salvation, Go as a River deserves a full five star rating.

Go as a River by Shelley Read was published on March 7th 2023 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Go as a River, Shelley Read, visit here.

*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.


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