Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

“I loved watching the mist dissipate to reveal the world more with every sunrise. I loved seeing the sky and the river shift from black to gold. I loved the sight of the assai palms, standing along the river bank like Narcissus, falling in love with their own reflections. I loved the squirrel monkeys chattering in the trees, the parrots screaming overhead, the pink river dolphins, the settlements here and there with boats tied to the trees and small houses up on stilts,” (Schweighardt 200).

Jack Hopper is back in Hoboken, New Jersey after his traumatic stint with death after trying his hand at rubber tapping in South America. Nursed back to health by his childhood friend Nora Sweeney their relationship shifts and changes as new struggles form around them. From the beginnings of World War I, the Spanish Flu, and the secrets Jack keeps close to his heart that he can’t bear to make public. Jack and Nora end up in the rainforests of South America, offering a glimpse into Jack’s past and closure for both of them that has been years coming.

I was so excited to start the second book in the Rivers Trilogy and it didn’t disappoint! Following a wide range from 1911-1928, reader’s are thrown into a number of historical events, from the First World War to the sinking of the Lusitania and the Spanish Influenza. While Jack may have survived his ordeal in the South American rainforests he certainly doesn’t come back to things being any easier. Schweighardt did a wonderful job creating a tense and fearful tone during the First World War setting and an uncomfortable one with the Spanish Influenza which only highlights her excellent research abilities. Gifts for the Dead was published in 2019, before there were even whispers of a pandemic and Schweighardt’s descriptions of the fear of people getting sick, the mask mandates (they aren’t new people!), job losses, school closures, and so much more was eerie to read having now lived through what we have and I can’t help but wonder what Schweighardt thinks of this in hindsight with what we’ve all now lived through.

Gifts for the Dead changes narration style in a few ways, the first by having it told alternatingly by Nora and Jack, the second being that Nora’s perspective is in first person while Jack’s is in third. I definitely missed Jack’s first person narration, all the fun lingo we got in the first book and getting inside of his head but I also think it was a good choice, that considering all Jack had been through in the first book it made sense that reader’s wouldn’t have that easy access into his mind. I also feel it may have been repetitious had his perspective been written in first person. I loved the addition of Nora’s voice, was so excited to get to know about her more, especially not through Jack’s eyes, and I wasn’t disappointed. Gifts for the Dead shines with characterization just as the first book did and it was so amazing to see Jack and Nora grow in this book, dealing with so much adversity and heartache and how all these experiences affected and changed them but continued to keep them recognizable characters.

One of the amazing things about this book is that it could be read as a stand-alone. While I definitely recommend reading the first one because reader’s get a first hand account of Jack’s experience in the jungle, it isn’t necessary in order to read Gifts for the Dead. I think that is such a gift to reader’s because there isn’t any stress in having to find all the books in a series or worrying about if they’ll be lost by reading them out of order. The full experience of these characters can be felt in both books individually, but I guarantee reader’s will fall in love with these characters and this story that they’ll be eager to get their hands on the rest of this series.

Filled with heartache, thrills, and characters reader’s will be rooting for, Gifts for the Dead is an amazing addition to the Rivers Trilogy that offers it’s own, unique adventure that reader’s will find themselves lost in.

49393632._SX318_SY475_Publication: October 2nd 2019
Publisher: Five Directions Press
Pages: 334 pages (PDF)
Source: The Next Best Book Club (Thanks Lori!)
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤

Jack Hopper is holding tight to his secret, though it gets heavier by the day. Nora Sweeny is tired of suffering losses and ready to improvise. Their relationship, based on Jack’s lies and Nora’s pragmatism, builds against a background that includes World War I (as experienced from the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey) and escalates when Jack and Nora travel together to the rainforests of South America seeking closure for a life-shattering event that occurred years earlier. Equal parts romance, adventure, and psychological suspense tale, Gifts for the Dead shines a floodlight on the characters’ deepest yearnings and greatest fears. 

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