'River Gods' A Tribute To Author's Hometown

In his new novel, The River Gods, Brian Kitely focuses on his home town, Northampton, Mass. The title comes from the popular name for the group of powerful men who ruled this part of New England for a hundred years or so from the late 17th century into the 18th.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

In Western Massachusetts, on the banks of the Connecticut River, sits the town of Northampton. It's the hometown of writer Brian Kiteley, and it's the setting for his new novel, "The River Gods."

Alan Cheuse has this review.

ALAN CHEUSE: River Gods such as Israel Williams, 70 years old in March of 1779, alternate chapters with members of novelist Kiteley's own family: his grandfather, his parents, his gay brother, and various other inhabitants of Northampton. They speak in monologues, opening their minds and hearts to the reader as might - say, spirits at a seance, with the novelist as the inspired spiritualist. The result is an intense and beautiful collage of speeches in time about events in this one place, from the familiar in everyday to the divine.

A 16-year-old Christian boy in the spring of 1738 says, Molly and I do not deceive out of fear of discovery, or because it pleases us to, because we do no one harm, and because we enjoy accumulating venal sins.

Jump forward to 1989, and the novelist himself chants the names of Northampton Streets: First Square, Florence, Young Rainbow, Old Rainbow, Locust, Myrtle, Maple, Elm, Audubon, Evergreen. By this method, Northampton, Massachusetts, in this unlikely and memorable tribute to one writer's hometown, becomes everyone's location.

"The River Gods" conjures up a local habitation by means of aesthetic magic. It's a meditation, a celebration, an investigation and an elegy.

BLOCK: That's our reviewer, Alan Cheuse. The new novel by Brian Kiteley is called "The River Gods."

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