This story has been on my ‘To Read’ list for such a long time, and I’m so glad I finally got to read it.
It’s a beautiful love story/folk tale of a River Wife – fish by night, human by day – her human father, and the human man she falls in love with.
The River Wife has no name: “I have found in the naming of things, something happens,” she tells the human, Wilson James.
“There are times now in the forest when a flower appears, berries grow, a certain fungus blooms, and if I name it I can pass it by as if I have seen it already. I do not want to pass it by… The bark of each tree has a pattern that is unique, a constellation of small creatures and plants which grow there and make it home, and it may have a neighbour which stands also in bark of a similar cloth, but it is not the same because its name is the same.”
The River Wives have always lived in this river, and this particular River Wife has been here for many many years – so many years that her human father has turned into a tree so that he will always be nearby.
“My father once said that any story of a place was a story of sadness, because everything changed. So a story of belonging would always be a story of losing.”
She’s warned against humans by her father, and she does try to resist the lure of Wilson James for a while, but she’s curious, too. He shouldn’t be able to see her, for she exists across a veil that humans cannot cross, but he can. How?
In the end her curiosity proves the better of her, and she succumbs to meeting him, and ever so gradually reveals the truth about herself.
But then something happens to Wilson James, and the River Wife has to make a dangerous journey to find the oldest ones and see if they can save him.
“‘What do hearts get mended with? ‘
‘Sunshine, kindness, the touch of your child’s hand in yours, spring rain, the green wings of dragonflies, rainbow scales, the webs of spiders, the voice of a woman who loves you.'”