A River Runs Through It

It’s time for my Midweek Recommendation, in which I commend to your attention books or music or movies or anything I find worth recommending.

Last week for my midweek recommendation I offered Ender’s Game for your reading enjoyment. This week, I’m going to break out of the Fantasy/Sci-Fi world and recommend A River Runs Through It, which is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite American writers, Norman Maclean.

I was one of those who saw the movie of A River Runs Through It before I ever read the book. I saw it at a theater in 1992, and I was struck by the beautiful words of the narration and their lyrical flow, especially at the beginning and the end. I picked up the book soon thereafter and fell in love.

To clarfiy, A River Runs Through It is actually a book with three stories – two novellas and a short story. The title story comes first, and while I enjoyed the other two, it is the title story that I am mainly recommending here.

The famous first line is great – “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing,” but in my opinion, it is the close of the story that demonstrates Maclean’s mastery of language. Here is the final excerpt of the book. Notice how the sentences start kind of long and grow shorter, until the final sentence hits with a simple, powerful elegance.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

For those of you who are hoping to be writers, perhaps trying to be writers, I encourage you to read widely, beyond your chosen genre. There is much out there to learn, and we learn by reading masters like Maclean. For those who simply enjoy powerful prose, I commend Maclean to you and hope you will find him as rewarding as I have. He only has two books, and some other time I’ll talk about his other one, Young Men and Fire. For now, I will leave it at that. Read Maclean, and start with A River Runs Through It. You won’t be disappointed.