Sunday Book: Sometimes a River Song by Avril Joy

Sometimes a River Song is a lyrical novel about a young girl who lives on the river boats of the Mississippi with her family.  Aiyana’s never known anything else, but America’s being gripped by a depression and times are changing. It’s a brutal, subsistence life on the river. ‘River rats is what the townsfolk call us and they don’t mean good by it,’ Aiyana says.  Her father is more violent than most of the men in his community.  He is particularly cruel towards Aiyana, for reasons she doesn’t understand until later in the novel. ‘. . daddy say I belong to the river and I belong to him and he will do with me as he see fit’.

She thinks it’s because she was almost drowned as a baby and has a number of health problems as a result. And she is the only member of the family with red hair.  Her difference makes her quiet and watchful. Unlike her brothers and sisters she’s never been sent to school and she has never learned to read or write.  She has to teach herself in secret because she knows that knowledge is power.  She plans her escape, but time and time again she is pushed back.  Her freedom eventually comes in a very unexpected way.

This is one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time.  The narrative itself is song-like in the way the prose moves.  It reminded me initially of Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’, mainly because the narrative voice of the girl is so distinctive and haunting.

The author, Avril Joy, was the first winner of the Costa short story award, with ‘Millie and Bird’. That story has been much anthologised and my reading group absolutely loved it.  Avril’s written three previous books, all very different from each other.  I’ve enjoyed all of them, but this is definitely her best.  I could have gone on listening to that voice for ever.

Sometimes a River Song is published by Linen Press, a boutique publisher specialising in women’s writing.  It’s also available from Amazon as an e-book and, from 27th April, in paperback in all good bookshops (and Amazon whatever it says about delivery!).

Linen Press - Fine writing by women for women

Order direct from Linen Press

Also by Avril Joy

Millie and Bird - Tales of Paradise, Iron Press, 2015
The Orchid House - Room to Write (currently free on Kindle Unlimited)
The Sweet Track - Flambard Press

For more information please visit Avril's website 'Write what you love - love what you write'.


  1. I just read this and loved it too although I hadn't read anything else by Avril Joy. Very distinctive and haunting as you say. Ali

  2. Would you puh-leeze help a 'Plethora Of Wurdz' which are look'n for a new home in your novel? Yay! Whew. Thank you, avalanchingtivemently...

    Q: Can anyone tell me the difference between K2 and IQ? A: Nthn. In Seventh-Heaven, we gitt'm both for eternity HawrHawr Need a few more thots, ideers, raw wurdz or ironclad iconoclasms? Voila!!

    VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI: As an ex-writer of the sassy, savvy, schizophenia we all go through in this lifelong demise, I just wanna help U.S. git past the whorizontal more!ass! we're in (Latin: words to [the] wise)...

    "This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty told me in my coma. "Far beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find tangible, corpulent eloquence". Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

    I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET any moe curly, party-hardy-endorphins, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs (in [the] end without end -Saint Augustine) when my beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girly-girl passed-away due to those wry, sardonic satires.

    "Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3, NJB

    Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

    Go gitt'm, girl. You're incredible. See you Upstairs. I won't be joining'm in the nasty Abyss where Isis prowls
    PS Need summore unique, uncivilized, useless names? Lemme gonna gitcha started, brudda:

    Oak Woods, Franky Sparks, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, Roman Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Penelope Summers, Sophie Sharp, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zacharia Neptoon, Mercurio Morrissey, Fritz & Felix Franz, Victor Payne, Isabella Silverstein, Mercedes Kennedy, Redding Rust, Phoenix Martini, Ivy Squire, Sauer Wolfe, Yankee Cooky, -blessed b9 (or mixNmatch)...

    God blessa youse
    -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL


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