Author: Cecil L. Milliner
The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures. Here are more of Norm Goldman's Reviews
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Cecil L. Milliner’s previous book, Willie May Medcalf, recounted the story of a brave and determined young woman who overcomes a life of poverty and a husband who thought nothing of beating her and their six children. After she discovers that her husband, Will Jefferson Medcalf was killed, Willie May remarries her handyman, Jim Bledsoe and finds true happiness.
Continuing the saga of Willie May and her family, Milliner’s Bend in the River focuses on Willie May’s youngest son, Tom, who one day steals fifty dollars from his mother’s boarding house and diner’s cash box. Tom runs away from his home in Memphis and finds work pushing poles on a keelboat. Eventually, Tom lands in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It is here where he finds housing accommodations with the Haines family and meets their eldest daughter, Katie, who actively pursues him in marriage. Tom is quite disturbed at Katie’s boldness and he reminds himself that when he left home he never had any notion of getting married. Apparently, Tom was captivated by the romance of being a trapper and his goal was to become one and earn a great deal of money. Katie had other ideas when she met Tom and she was determined that he marry her in order that she could get away from Leavenworth. One day, while the two were picnicking, Katie threatens Tom that if he does not consent to marry her, she would tear her dress in order to make it appear that Tom tried to rape her. Tom, fearing for his life if the townspeople believed Katie, marries her and the couple leave Leavenworth and return to Memphis to live where Katie gives birth to twin girls. Tom’s relationship with Katie is one of respect but not love, however, following his mother’s advice he would not leave Katie as he took a vow to stay with his wife for better or worse.
With Bend in the River Milliner, unfortunately, has not fully created the all important emotional charge that is required to have a good drama. The charge in this case would have been Tom’s struggle of an individual squaring off against his wife Katie and within himself. Milliner’s character is not pushed to the limit and thus the plot falls flat. In addition, Milliner’s supporting characters all seem superficial with little development and there is lack of a compelling structural backbone.
I also found the dialogue lacking, as in many instances Milliner does not shape it in a way that is dramatically moving. Moreover, there was repetition of entire paragraphs describing the same events which added very little to the novel. No doubt a dose of good editing would have rectified these shortcomings, as well as the many spelling and grammatical errors that I noticed sprinkled throughout the novel.
These faults aside, Milliner should be applauded for his raw writing talent particularly with his skillful knack for dropping intriguing clues into the narrative that keep the readers wanting to know what will eventually happen to our principal characters and their families.