The River and the Ravages by J. M. Lawler

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The River and the RavagesThe River and the Ravages by J.M. Lawler touches on universal themes from a predominantly female perspective. This fiction-romance tells the story of a girl coming to terms with her true self, while being pulled in opposite directions by competing forces.

The core relationship explored by J.M. Lawler seems to be that between mother and daughter. Aaliya only felt truly understood by her mother, of whom’s recent passing threw the world off-balance. Freeing burning emotions is not something that comes naturally to her; instead she keeps the pain to fester inside. In her desperate desire to find a way to cope with a seemingly unbearable loss she recklessly throws herself in different directions, into the arms of a lover or into the hard labor of saddle making. The way to redemption and acceptance is crookedly paved, but this makes the journey all the more interesting and relatable.

Aaliya’s relationship with her sister unravels throughout the book. If in the beginning they start at opposite spectrums, by the end, they converge. What unites them is the burden and experience of life, which accentuate their similarities rather than their differences. Sibling rivalry is certainly a common occurrence and can take on several subtle variations. What makes this version special is precisely the gentle balance of the similarities and differences; but most of all, how this dynamic outlines an interdependency of the two sisters.

The story has a strong and often explicit erotic edge to it. Desire and sensuality are presented under many variations, but never gratuitously. Nevertheless, this remains an aspect to take into account when thinking of the target audience. On the other hand, rather in contrast, there is a stylistic simplicity and innocence, which is palpable throughout the pages. However, this could make it a bit more difficult to pinpoint a clear target audience.

All in all, The River and the Ravages remains an easy and overall pleasant read especially on a cozy autumn day. While the main characters are women, I would not say that J.M. Lawler explores strictly women’s issues, but rather universal themes from a female perspective.