River, Cross My Heart, the Oprah Book Club selection and debut novel by Breena Clarke celebrates twenty years since its publication. It’s now available in River, Cross My Heart Kindle edition.
“A genuine masterpiece … full of grace and beauty and profound insights … RIVER, CROSS MY HEART bears traces of Eudora Welty’s charm and Toni Morrison’s passion.” — The Baltimore Sun
Five-year-old Clara Bynum is dead, drowned in the Potomac River in the shadow of a seemingly haunted rock outcropping known locally as the Three Sisters. River, Cross My Heart weighs the effect of Clara’s absence on the people she has left behind: her parents, Alice and Willie Bynum, torn between the old world of their rural North Carolina home and the new world of the city, to which they have moved in search of a better life for themselves and their children; the friends and relatives of the Bynum family in the Georgetown neighborhood they now call home; and, most especially, Clara’s sister, ten-year-old Johnnie Mae, who must come to terms with the powerful and confused emotions stirred by her sister’s death as she struggles to decide what kind of woman she will become.
Legends abound that the Potomac River is a widowmaker, a childtaker, and a woman-swallower. According to the most famous tale, the river has already swallowed three sisters–three Catholic nuns. Yet it did not swallow them, only drowned them and belched them back up in the form of three small rock islands. They lie halfway between one shore and the other, each with a wimple made of seabirds’ wings.
The Three Sisters is a landmark. When you say the Three Sisters, people know you’re going to tell about something that happened on the river to cause grief. And it isn’t really clear whether it’s the boulders or the river at that spot that causes the grief. Nobody in his right mind goes swimming near the Three Sisters. The river has hands for sure at this spot. Maybe even the three nuns themselves, beneath the water’s surface, are grabbing ankles to pull down some company.
–From River, Cross My Heart
Being chosen for the Oprah Book Club and appearing on the Oprah show in November 1999 was a delight. The book club continues to bring “River, Cross My Heart.” to new readers. For the complete list of all of the Oprah Book Club selections, go to BookRiot
I’ll be reflecting on my work and celebrating River, Cross My Heart’s 20th anniversary at
Crossing Thresholds: 42nd Annual ODU Literary Festival, October 6-10
For more information, go to