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Time Is a River

Time Is a River

  • reading group guide
With a strong, warm voice that brings the South to life, New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe writes richly textured stories that intimately portray the complex and emotional relationships we share with families, friends, and the natural world. "Every book that Mary Alice Monroe has written has felt like a homecoming to me," writes Pat Conroy, bestselling author of The Prince of Tides.

Time Is a River is an insightful novel that will sweep readers away to the seductive southern landscape, joining books by authors such as Anne Rivers Siddons and Sue Monk Kidd.

Recovering from breast cancer and reeling from her husband's infidelity, Mia Landan flees her Charleston home to heal in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. She seeks refuge in a neglected fishing cabin belonging to her fly-fishing instructor, Belle Carson.

Belle recently inherited the cabin, which once belonged to a grandmother she never knew -- the legendary fly fisher and journalist of the 1920s, Kate Watkins, whose life fell into ruins after she was accused of murdering her lover. Her fortune lost in the stock market crash and her reputation destroyed, Kate slipped into seclusion in the remote cabin. After her death the fishing cabin remained locked and abandoned for decades. Little does Belle know that by opening the cabin doors to Mia for a summer's sanctuary, she will open again the scandal that plagued Belle's family for generations.

From her first step inside the dusty cabin, Mia is fascinated by the traces of Kate's mysterious story left behind in the eccentric furnishings of the cabin. And though Belle, ashamed of the tabloid scandal that tortured her mother, warns Mia not to stir the mud, Mia is compelled to find out more about Kate...especially when she discovers Kate's journal.

The inspiring words of the remarkable woman echo across the years. Mia has been learning to fly-fish, and Kate's wise words comparing life to a river resonate deeply. She begins a quest to uncover the truth behind the lies. As she searches newspaper archives and listens to the colorful memories of the local small-town residents, the story of a proud, fiercely independent woman emerges. Mia feels a strange kinship with the woman who, like her, suffered fears, betrayal, the death of loved ones, and a fall from grace -- yet found strength, compassion and, ultimately, forgiveness in her isolation. A story timeless in its appeal emerges, with a power that reopens old wounds, but also brings a transforming healing for Mia, for Kate's descendants, and for all those in Mia's new community.
Choose a format:
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416546641 | 
  • January 2009
List Price $17.00

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Mary Alice Monroe: Time Is a River

For Mary Alice Monroe, whether she catches anything while fly fishing is immaterial; she's dancing with the environment.

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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion
1. What does the title, Time is a River, represent for you? What characteristics do the passing of time and the flowing of the river share? How did time and the river act as representations for one another in the story? Why did the river come to mean so much to Mia?
2. The road to healing does not follow a straight course. Often emotional healing takes two steps forward and one back in a circuitous route to recovery. The opening of the book reflects that backwards and forward movement. Cite the small steps forward Mia takes and the subsequent set backs as she gradually gains strength and purpose. Discuss how the movement of casting--back and forth--symbolizes this pattern of healing.
3. Go back and read the Mark Nepo poem, "Holding Each Other Up" that opens the novel. What is the significance of opening the narrative with this poem?
4. On the first page of Chapter 1, when Mia is making her way to Belle's cabin, the narrator tells us, "Mia Landan no longer believed in fairy tales" (Pg 1). By the end of the book, do you think Mia believes in fairy tales again? Discuss how the mountainous landscape and Mia's experiences in Watkin's Mill can be likened to a fairy tale?
5. Discuss Mia's relationship with her sister Maddie. How is Maddie like a mother to Mia; how is she like a sister? How like a friend? What is the difference?
6. At the start of the novel, Mia is in need of rescue and Belle is there for her. How d see more

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About the Author

Mary Alice Monroe
Photo credit: Barbara J. Bergwerf

Mary Alice Monroe

Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including The Summer Wind, The Summer Girls, Last Light Over Carolina, Time is a River, Sweetgrass, Skyward, The Beach House, The Four Seasons, The Book Club, and Beach House Memories. Her books received numerous awards, including the Award for Writing from the South Carolina Center for the Book and the International Fiction Award for Green Fiction. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.

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