River, Cross My Heart: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)

by Breena Clarke

Paperback, 1999


Checked out


Back Bay Books (1999), Edition: 1st Back Bay Pbk. Ed, 245 pages


The acclaimed bestseller--a selection of Oprah's Book Club--that brings vividly to life the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, circa 1925, a community reeling from a young girl's tragic death. Five-year-old Clara Bynum is dead, drowned in the Potomac River in the shadow of a seemingly haunted rock outcropping known locally as the Three Sisters. River, Cross My Heart, which marks the debut of a wonderfully gifted new storyteller, weighs the effect of Clara's absence on the people she has left behind: her parents, Alice and Willie Bynum, torn between the old world of their rural North Carolina home and the new world of the city, to which they have moved in search of a better life for themselves and their children; the friends and relatives of the Bynum family in the Georgetown neighborhood they now call home; and, most especially, Clara's sister, ten-year-old Johnnie Mae, who must come to terms with the powerful and confused emotions stirred by her sister's death as she struggles to decide what kind of woman she will become. This highly accomplished first novel resonates with ideas, impassioned lyricism, and poignant historical detail as it captures an essential part of the African-American experience in our century.… (more)


(211 ratings; 3.3)

User reviews

LibraryThing member estellen
OK book - but one in a million. Not worth the hype.
LibraryThing member readingrat
Another coming of age story - not bad, but not as memorable as many of the others I have read.
LibraryThing member AnneliM
Novel is set in black Georgetown, part of Washington D.C. in the 1920s. Author grew up in D.C. and setting is quite plausible. A closeknit community helps a family cope with the death of a child and its aftermath.
LibraryThing member LynnB
This is the story of Johnnie Mae Bynum and her family, who live in Washington, D.C. in the mid-twenties. Ms. Clarke has drawn a rich portrait of life for coloured residents at that time and the story of how Johnnie Mae and others deal with the accidental death of her young sister is interesting,
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but like others have said, not excellent.

I read this book, which is an Oprah's Book Club selection, shortly after reading an analysis of "The Oprah Phenomenon". As was pointed out in that analysis, Oprah's message is one of individual responsibility, largely regardless of broader societal or systemic barriers to equality or success. While Ms. Clarke's shows a community with a whites-only swimming pool, segregated schools, and Blacks in service jobs, none of her characters complain or work to change the situation. Rather, they do the best they can in the situation in which they find themselves.....but with an eye on a better life for their children.
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LibraryThing member snash
A good depiction of the black community of Georgetown during the 1920's although the plot line gets a little lost in the descriptions.
LibraryThing member sanyamakadi
Engagingly written winding narrative filled with colorful characters. It provides a vivid picture of Black Georgetown in the 1920s. And the child protagonist is just as charming and infuriating as child characters (and real life children) often are.


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Physical description

8.25 inches


0316899984 / 9780316899987
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