Mysterious ‘After River’ a stunning first effort



It’s hard to remain patient while waiting for a favorite author to release a new book. So instead of pining your free time away, why not turn your attention to the ripe, new talent of author Donna Milner? Through her first novel, “After River,” Milner proves that good surprises come to those who take a chance.

In the quiet town of Atwood live the Wards, a close-knit family well known for their warm reception and hospitality. One day they take in a hired hand from across the border, despite his outlandish appearance. But once the hearts of the Wards become entangled over their newest addition to the family ranch, a dramatic shift begins to drive them apart. Secrets long hidden are pulled into the open, and certain members are forced to face truths that might have been better left forgotten.

Drenched in mystery from the first page, “River” deceives the reader at every turn. Often times the plot seems predictable, but just when things seem normal, Milner mercilessly shoves a climatic moment into the faces of her readers with an abruptness that often leaves the audience paralyzed with shock.

Despite being her first published book, Milner nails one of the key factors that will put her among the ranks of renowned authors. Instead of simply telling a story, Milner actually pulls the reader into the plot by establishing a solid cast that share many humanistic qualities. Natalie, the main protagonist of the story, is flawed in a way that most any person can identify with. By being able to relate with the characters, readers become more involved with the many turns of events.

Throughout the novel, readers may notice various examples of the central moral of the book — the strength of family relations. Despite all the bad that the characters within the book undergo, redemption is sought and forgiveness earned. Milner reminds her readers repeatedly that secrets should never be withheld from family. Not only will the consequences of the past return to haunt the present, but to overcome any obstacle, it’s easiest to do it with the love and support of your family.

I am thankful to have stumbled upon “After River.” It’s a definite read that will keep you on the edge of your seat, cheering on the sidelines for the characters to find a happy ending. Look for it on Feb. 3 in paperback.