“The River” by Flannery O’Connor
Rating: ★★★★★ // my heart hurts. \
Opening Line: The child stood glum and limp in the middle of the dark living room while his father pulled him into a plaid coat.
This is perhaps the saddest story I have ever read. I’ve read it three times and it still breaks my heart.
This story follows a young boy, Harry, who goes for the day with Mrs. Connin, an older lady in town, because his mother was too sick to take care of him. Mrs. Connin takes him to her home, and to the healing preacher down by the river. There the preacher learns Harry has never been baptized and so the preacher told him if he get’s baptized “you’ll be able to go to the Kingdom of Christ. You’ll be washed in the river of suffering, son, and you’ll go by the deep river of life.” After baptizing Harry, the preacher tells him three words he had likely never heard in his short life “you count now.”
The rest of the book shows the consequence of a young child hearing the phrase “you count now” for the first and only time….and it’s heartbreaking.
I find myself thinking of this story multiple times a day since I read it. It was written with characters who are real, shocking, and infuriating. The plot, though short, brings the reader into the lives of these people in a way that makes you think you’ve been reading about them for years.
If you have read this, I would love to discuss it in the comments, but I don’t want to go too deep in the review because of spoilers.