Recently selected by Booklist as one of this year’s top ten sports books, River House (M) by Sarahlee Lawrence epitomizes what I love about memoirs. I really enjoy delving into the realms of an accomplished person’s vocation or passion, one of which I have little knowledge. Traveling down the world’s exotic rivers certainly fits that bill for me. But I also relish learning about the personal details – how they found their passion, who inspired them etc… River House definitely fits the bill for me as an engaging memoir.
More than just a recounting of her travels and her passion for rivers, this memoir also deals with the author’s complex relationship with her Oregon roots and specifically her father, a landlocked surfer dude. Sarahlee’s decision to return home to build a home created an opportunity to work alongside her father, a process that takes the author on an unexpected journey, one with it’s own set of whitewater rapids to navigate.
“The prose in “River House” pulses with movement. At times, Lawrence writes like I imagine she runs wild rivers. Nothing drags in this book.” – Oregonian
“It’s messy, this building of houses and relationships, but the experiences give this memoir an existential grace.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Lawrence grew up on a ranch in the high desert of Oregon, where her strong, unflappable mother is content, but where her father, a surfer in a place of little water and epic winters, suffers like a caged bird. Lawrence develops a passion for rivers, and at a young age, she becomes an accomplished, seemingly fearless, world-traveling river guide and advocate pleased with her roughing-it, transient life. Until she finds herself on the flooded, hence monstrous, Tambopata River on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Suddenly, it seems imperative that she build her own log house on her family’s land, just as her parents did. Surely this will make her father happy.
Instead, he’s instructively adversarial, and her strenuous and dangerous work on the ranch caring for 40 horses and constructing her house in the bitter cold is as harrowing and demanding as any wilderness sojourn. Handy with tools and rafts, a good neighbor, and a mighty fine horsewoman, Lawrence is also adept with language, writing with arresting lucidity and a driving need to understand her father, her legacy, the land, community, work, and herself. A true adventure story of rare dimension.” – Publisher