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Where the River Ends by Charles Martin
Broadway, 23 June 2009


A powerfully emotional and beautifully written story of heartbreaking loss and undying love

He was a fishing guide and struggling artist from a South Georgia trailer park. She was the beautiful only child of South Carolina’s most powerful senator. Yet once Doss Michaels and Abigail Grace Coleman met by accident, they each felt they’d found their true soul mate.

Ten years into their marriage, when Abbie faces a life-threatening illness, Doss battles it with her every step of the way. And when she makes a list of ten things she hopes to accomplish before she loses the fight for good, Doss is there, too, supporting her and making everything possible. Together they steal away in the middle of the night to embark upon a 130-mile trip down the St. Mary’s River—a voyage Doss promised Abbie in the early days of their courtship.

Where the River Ends chronicles their love-filled, tragedy-tinged journey and a bond that transcends all.

I remember a post I wrote a while ago where I talked about my first encounter with a Charles Martin book. I said that I had not talked much about him as I had read all his books before we started the blog. I must confess that wasn’t true – I still had one more book to go that I forgot about! This is that book.
The book covers comes with a gold warning stamped on it: WARNING: This book will break your heart. My husband read it first and I remember asking him how the book was going as he neared the end. He replied something to the effect of “Yes, it’s sad but it’s not making me cry.” Five minutes later I turned around and he was crying! Such is the power of a well-written love story.
No one picks up this book expecting Abbie to survive. We know from the blurb how this will end. What’s important here is the journey Martin takes his readers on – and what a journey it is! This is Martin’s sixth novel (his seventh and newest release, Thunder and Rain is being read by my husband as I write this) and he delivers as he always does. Yes, I cried like a baby at the end too!
Martin gives us two beautifully drawn people in Doss and Abbie. Doss’ devotion is strong and his will even stronger to give Abbie her ten wishes before she dies. Martin alternates chapters between the present and their past starting from when they met, got married and found the cancer that ravaged Abbie. Abbie is full of life even at the end. She is funny, determined and she pushes Doss to see the best in himself – a gift he later teaches Abbie during the throws of chemo treatment.
Martin not only brings his characters to life but also his trademark, beautifully rendered word arts of the surrounding scenery – the river and it’s life flow both literal and metaphorical, to architecture of Charleston and much more. I have said it before and I’ll always say it again and again: Martin does not tell you things, he paints pictures, breathtaking ones with his words. I have not come across another author who can do what he can with words.
This book will stay with you for a long time and it will make you think about just what unconditional love is and what is looks like in action. Even if your heart breaks, this book is worth the read!