The Names of Rivers
Daniel Buckman
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The Names of Rivers
Daniel Buckman
208 pages
October 2003
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The author's outline, his working blueprint as it were, is to set in motion, and usually in conflict, different generations of a single family. Typically, descending from oldest to youngest, the senior members fought in the most distant chronological war, here WWII, and the the middle two sons participated in the Vietnam conflict.

Grandfathers cannot reconcile with sons, and those sons cannot find any value in what their own sons have done. Bruno is the patriarch of this family and was part of the liberation of the prisoners of Dachau. His middle-aged sons, Bruce and Len, both participants in the terrible nightmare that was Vietnam, can neither one elicit any empathy from the father. Bruce's son, Luke, is caught between his own father's terrible memories and the recollections of his grandfather.

The most moving moments in the book are the descriptions of what the elder Konick confronted in the horrors of Dachau but Buckman, maybe sensing that too much of this description might frighten away his readership, only allows us a few pages of this type of insight.

The only problem is in keeping the relationships straight, who has fathered what son, and what is a flashback and what is happening in real time. It's quite complex. Beyond that, this is a dark and dismal portrayal of family-as-soldiers competing in the biggest battle of all - love.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2005

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