- Hardcover: 270 pages
- Published: 6/1/02
- IBSN: 9781888451290
- Genre: Fiction
A tightly crafted search for redemption and forgiveness within the shadows of a family’s military past, by the author of Water in Darkness.
“Let the word go out: There’s a new Hemingway loose in America. Buckman’s powers of observation are breathtaking, his lyricism continually puts a fresh face on the mundane things that usually pass unnoticed, and his prose rolls forward with a sure rhythm, concision and grace that make almost every paragraph a textbook model of how to write well.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Buckman displays a remarkably exacting touch with his lead characters and supporting cast . . . He scores with a bounty of themes touching fathers and sons, dark family secrets, revenge and redemption, tying it all up in a stunning but believable conclusion. Buckman is carving a niche for himself as an unblinking observer of the horrors of war, especially Vietnam. His second novel deserves to be widely reviewed.”
By the author of the critically acclaimed Water in Darkness, The Names of Rivers is a tightly crafted search for redemption and forgiveness within the shadows of a family’s military past. Set in a 1980s rustbelt town south of Chicago, the novel tells the story Bruno Konick, an aged veteran of “the good war” who has spent a lifetime haunted by his own actions during the liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp; and his grandson Luke, a teenage boy forever dreaming of heroism in a post-Vietnam America where ‘duty, honor, and country’ have become ‘don’t let the man get you’. Together, they watch Luke’s father Bruce, an unemployed factory worker badly disfigured during the siege of Khe Sanh, wander towards his suicidal end in a cornfield ruined by a freakish ice storm. When the youngest son Len unexpectedly returns home, recovered from the heroin addiction he learned as a hospital corpsman in Saigon, he brings with him an old wound that Bruno Konick can never let himself touch.
From a variety of perspectives, Buckman examines the complex relationships between fathers and sons, between men and history, weaving a cohesive novel rich in life’s substance. Where his prose echoes Hemingway’s extraordinary actuality, a constant reminder of the flesh’s terrible importance in human relations, his vision heeds Faulkner’s call for basic humanity amidst the pitiless and endless violence of twentieth-century history. A story of love and pain, of sin and forgiveness, The Names of Rivers enacts a drama rich in biblical tradition and sheer moral weight by asking the oldest of all questions: am I my brother’s keeper?