The death of her father begins Dorothy Weil’s search for what causes the family’s “spinning of in all directions like the pieces of Chaos.” She embarks on a river odyssey, traveling the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers by steamboat, towboat, and even an old-fashioned flatboat. The river brings her family back, as she records the stories of her fellow “river rats”: steamboat veterans, deckhands, captains, and cooks.
The River Home takes the reader into a world few ever glimpse, that of America’s riverboats. In the fast-paced narrative, with incisive characterizations and dialogue, the author introduces us to this vivid milieu and a gallery of fascinating people. We meet her father, a “wild river man from the Kentucky hills,” her mother, “a proper girl from a Cincinnati Dutch clan,” and her brother, a fourth-generation river man, as well as the artists and academics she meets in her adult life.
Weil’s voice is clear and wry, as well as poetic, bringing out both the sadness and joys of a family torn by mismatched backgrounds. Her themes speak to all: the confusion brought by family conflict, the strength of family love no matter how troubled the relationships, the mortality we all face, the importance of where we come from and where we go.