The River Midnight

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Inspiration: I was doing a writing exercise and a mythical figure came to me, larger than life, an earth woman type. She seemed to be prehistoric, but what did I know about pre-history? A mischievous thought: what if I took this large, strong woman and placed her in a traditional environment. Maybe a shtetl? My own family history was mythological. The reality of it was burned down in the holocaust, and there was so much I didn’t know, so much lost. The story would be my mythical re-creation, the return of the lost through an act of hope and imagination. And the courage of women.

“[A] first novel of wondrous mythical depth and rare spiritual beauty…No doubt possessing prodigious literary gifts, Nattel’s depth of study and passion for her subject also accounts for The River Midnight’s stunning originality”
-Paula Friedman, The San Diego Union Tribune)

The rising sun was burning off the fog. Leaves drifted from the woods into the high grass and wildflowers that grew up and around the softly crumbling tombstones, the women’s boots solid on the earth between the yellow blooms of butter-and-eggs.

At this time of year, as at other times of life and death, dread and relief, danger and birth, the women stood together, arms linked, a net that gathered up their compassion, and let their grudges fall through. Only Misha, being close to her time, was not there among the women at her great-grandmother’s grave.

The River Midnight

“A young Canadian writer’s brilliant first novel skillfully evokes…the genius of such literary forerunners and likely influences as Isaac Bashevis Singer…A marvelous debut and a loving anatomy of the vanished world of shtetles that merits comparison with the best work of Singer and Sholom Aleichem.” (Kirkus)

“Nattel’s emotional, panoramic narrative proves extraordinary” (M.H., Entertainment Weekly)

“Lilian Nattel’s lovely first novel is like “Fiddler on the Roof” without the music…Lovingly written, beautifully crafted, meticulously researched” (Sandra Brooks-Dillard, The Denver Post)

“The River Midnight is a warm hearth to return to at the end of a chilly day.” (Rebecca Walker, San Antonio Express)

“[A] mezmerizing first novel...The River Midnight is not simply remarkable as a historical text. Nattel’s flair for the telling detail is just one treasure in her bag of writer’s tricks.” (Natasha Stovall, The Washington Post)

“The River Midnight [is reminiscent] of March Chagall’s romantic paintings. Like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County and Garcia Marquez’s Macondo, Nattel’s imagined backwater is shot through with mythic significance.” (R.Z. Sheppard, Time)