Book Review: A River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts

About the Book

a river too deepIn the spring of 1817, Alcy Callen and her father visit a step-uncle they have long presumed dead; but instead of enjoying a loving reunion, they are plunged into treachery and deceit. Nothing is as they expected and little is what it seems. Even the man who helps her escape is not the reliable suitor he appears.

Alcy is caught between gratitude and fear, unable to avoid her rescuer’s attentions or understand the responses they stir. Neither can she tell what sort of man he is or what he intends to do with her in the strange place they are going. Will he keep her for himself or will he sell her to the highest bidder?

Of one person only is she certain, but will he come for her before it is too late?


My Thoughts

Long before I had the chance to read it, I’d already heard so many great things about A River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts. So when the opportunity first arose to review it, I jumped at the chance to finally read this much-talked-about book for myself.  I can now safely say that I see what all the fuss was about.

A River Too Deep is almost an allegory of our relationship with God, though it stops just short of fully falling into that category.  Certain characters and plot points beautifully illustrate the concept of God as our Adopted Father, of Jesus as our Bridegroom. The history, the setting, the characters, the romance brought to mind Laura Frantz or Lori Benton but with a voice unique to this author.

In the first quarter of the book, I did think that some of the events/reactions felt a bit unrealistic. For example, after unexpectedly losing someone very close to her and then suffering some additional trauma of her own, Alcy didn’t have nearly the emotional reaction that I would have had, were I in her shoes. Maybe I’m just a wimp lol (entirely possible) but some of this first part fell flat like that to me.

On the other hand, the last three quarters of the book is stunning in its emotion, its richness, its characters. Alcy’s transformation into Eyes-Like-Water is poignant and bittersweet but “right”, highlighted by the power of the Creator and His Book to change lives. There was so much spiritual truth woven through these pages, not just what is blatantly expressed but subtle nuances that make it all the sweeter.

And Preying Eagle? What can I say except SWOON! My goodness. The intensity of his watchful stares, the tenderness of his care for Alcy, the depth of his feelings. All of these add to the layers of his already-complex character and make him one unforgettable hero.

“I was sorry I had judged him a savage without knowing anything about his character.”

The diversity between cultures in this novel is thought-provoking as well as inspiring. To coexist peacefully in her new situation, Alcy must come to terms with her own prejudices and assumptions. As do the people who have taken her in. Wrestling with a fresh awareness of what causes people to dehumanize one another – “If we label a whole group savage, we feel justified fulfilling our manifest destiny at their cost.” – Alcy’s eyes are also opened to the bias of her own religious traditions and thus a deeper understanding of her Creator.

“How much of what we call Christian is our own tradition, unrelated to Scripture or morality?”

A River Too Deep is rich with history and steady tones of faith, and while romance certainly plays a role in the story it is more of a subplot than the focus. Vivid and diverse characters gallop through the chapters, stealing your heart and carving out a permanent residence. They grapple with issues which are still exceedingly relevant for today’s world and do so with poignancy and grace. “…they were not the people of my flesh but had become the people of my heart.” Oh, that more people today would open their hearts and minds to the same transformation.

I received the opportunity to read and review this book through the author. The opinions expressed are my own. This review first appeared, at least in part, on Reading Is My SuperPower.

About the Author

sydney tooman bettsSydney Tooman Betts and her protagonist-husband currently reside in the Shenandoah Valley near the extensive cavern system that inspired the setting for several early chapters of her second book.

While single, Ms. Betts (B.S. Bible/Missiology, M.Ed) was involved in a variety of cross-cultural adventures in North and Central America. After marrying, she and her husband lived in Europe and the Middle East where he served in various mission-support capacities. Her teaching experiences span preschool to guest lecturing at the graduate level and serving as the Sunday School Superintendent, Children’s Church Director, or Women’s Ministries facilitator in several evangelical denominations.

Before penning her first novel, A River too Deep, she ghost-wrote several stories for an adult literacy program.


People of the Book series

a river too deep light bird's song straight flies the arrow

One of my favorite quotes from the book is “…they were not the people of my flesh but had become the people of my heart.” Who comes to mind in your own life, the people of YOUR heart, when you read these words?

Review by Carrie


2 thoughts on “Book Review: A River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts

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