Reader Review of Gideon’s River

Gideon’s River drew me in with its realistic characters and situations and its unconventional ones, too.  Relationships are at the core of the story as they are in life.  Control issues are often at the center of relationship issues and are dealt with realistically as well.  The juxtaposition of real life and stage play life added an unexpected dimension.  It is a cleverly used device to show the inner workings and emotional potential, both light and dark, that resides in each of us and depends on the choices we make.  The use of the church as a character adds an unusual humanizing aspect.  The unconventional character and role of Kathleen, the minister, enhances the story in interesting ways as well.  We are reminded that the love for a child isn’t always enough to counterbalance outside negative influences, intentional or unwitting.  Duane is a good example of the harm one parent can inflict on a child after a divorce by criticizing, disrespecting, misrepresenting, and undermining the custodial parent.  Duane’s mother, a victim of that, in the end chooses to give up the role of victimhood imposed on her and make a better life.  Sadly, Duane, as his embittered father’s real victim, chooses a darker path as a young adult.  Gideon struggles with his teenage insecurities of fitting into his second family with two half-siblings.  He is as uncertain of his mother Rosalie’s love as she is sure of it.  Nor has he yet discovered where he fits into the family.  With his mother’s and step-father Fred’s consistent love and supportive intervention when and as most needed, Gideon makes good choices eventually, unlike Duane, and ends up on a firm footing.  Rosalie’s new boss is a very insecure, mean-spirited, controlling woman.  By remaining true to herself, Rosalie weathers and survives the difficult challenges presented by Connie, another of life’s lessons well handled in the book.  Connie reaps the consequences of her choices, too.  If you are looking for a good book on the inner workings, motives, choices and outcomes of choices within relationships, you can’t go wrong with “Gideon’s River.”  It’s a good read.” EB

To listen to Trish speak about what kind of character we might admire in a boy growing into manhood, see the post A Man That Is a Man.

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In this short video Nicole McKensie speaks on how we can preserve or rescue a child’s happiness, as Rosalie does in Gideon’s River.

For a good story and an example of curiosity based parenting, read Gideon’s River.

In this scene Rosalie learns something new about her son:

Vera was at the back door lifting her hand to knock. Rosalie held the door and Vera stepped in.  She held out the metal box.

“That’s my note box.  I’ve been looking for it!”

“I found it on Earth Day.  It was in the field, almost buried in mud at the high flood mark. And I’ve been debating for days whether you ought to see it.”


“Open it.”

Rosalie took the box to the table.  Vera followed, watching while Rosalie pried the lid up and off, took out the water-stained note, and carefully unfolded it.

“My temper,” Rosalie read.  “This is Gideon’s writing.”

“I thought it would be.  He was trying to throw it away, in the river.”

Rosalie barely breathed.  “I thought he threw temper around on purpose.  Oh, dear.  This changes everything.  I don’t know what to think.”  She sat down in the nearest chair.  What a struggle for him!  I…I didn’t know.”

After Vera left, Rosalie sat with the paper in her hand, reading the scrawled words my temper over and over.

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The Bully and the Wimp: The Capture of Women

In Gideon’s River, Rosalie can’t stand her son’s tantrums.  This short video clip offers a theory of how women lost their strength many centuries ago.

Find out how Rosalie finds the strength to stop reacting to Gideon and start helping him.  Gideon’s River is a must for parents who are puzzled how to help an unhappy child and for anyone who has been an unhappy child.

Twelve-year-old Gideon has a temper.  He doesn’t want to have a temper.  He tries to get rid of his temper—and gets mad at his mother, Rosalie, when she won’t let him introduce his siblings to the dark music and videos of the 1990s.  Although son and mother love each other, they argue bitterly, lost in the ancient dramas of the bully and the wimp as these dramas have come down through the family.

Review of Gideon’s River:  “Lapidus has written an engaging, credible novel that will appeal to a broad range of readers. Gideon’s River contains a cast of characters who populate a small central New York town brought to life by the author’s powers of rich description. Protagonist Rosalie wrestles with problems stemming from her first son Gideon’s out-of-control temper, her own need to let go, and undeserved animosity from a co-worker in her social services office.  Rosalie’s kindness and commitment to do the right thing, as well as her very human self-doubt, make her an attractive character, relevant to readers…..

“Readers—parents, of course, but introspective young adults as well—soon find themselves involved with the choices and consequences of Rosalie, Gideon, and the other residents of Little Bridge. Gideon’s River will spark its readers to question, stretch, and occasionally rejoice.”  Lois Lake Church, Instructor of English, Southern Connecticut State U, Quinnipiac U, UConn Waterbury, and Middlesex Community College



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Lost Girls, Lost Mothers

It is a basic human right to grow up with one’s self in tact, which is to say, with confidence that we are worthy, able persons.  See what happens to families when self-trust has been shattered.  Gideon’s River follows the journey of a troubled family.

We can re-create loving families in which a new child is not harmed.  We only need to understand how, and to support today’s parents–who must give their children the safety and affirmation they may not have had in childhood.

In Gideon’s River, Rosalie searches everywhere for guidanceFollow her progress.


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Theatre in the Church: Where Can We Turn For Help?

Of all our problems, perhaps the most troublesome is having nowhere to turn when we need help.  Help is a theme is Gideon’s River.

A certain amount of pageantry has always been associated with religion. Churches sometimes put on skits to show some part of their story. In Medieval times there were plays called “Everyman” in which the plight of every man was set forth and answered. The Ancient Greeks, avid theatre goers, watched tragedies and comedies which explored the religious, philosophical, and political issues of the day.

We can divide church theatre into two kinds, plays that show forth shared and expected beliefs, and plays that explore for new truths. In Gideon’s River, The Reverend Kathleen Mallory engages her congregation in performing and watching plays that explore. But not everyone in the church is happy with open theatre.

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A Man in Full

The title of Tom Wolff’s book A Man in Full is the subject of this post and video clip.

When Rosalie, in Gideon’s River, faces an angry Gideon, she must think deeply about what she wants for her son.  What will make him happy?  In the end she decides that competence, and the self-confidence which competence brings, is the key to happiness.  Trust in an ability to handle life IS the person.  When life robs the child of self-confidence, the child loses himself and adopts a social veneer.

Subscribe to this blog at right. Read Gideon’s River.

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Lost Boys: Oliver Twist

The story of Oliver Twist is beloved in part because we want Oliver to be rescued from the orphanage where he was placed when his mother died. The orphanage is a terrible place. The caretakers are mean to the kids, unwilling to spend money on food and just as unwilling to spend their attention on these love-starved children. But if the orphanage is terrible, the London streets where we find Oliver next are so would have nightmares if you thought an actual child you loved had become lost there.

For the connection between Oliver and Gideon, please see Lost Boys in Literature on this blog in the June 2011 archives.  While Gideon is not physcailly lost in a dangerous city like Oliver, he also has no salvation except what he works out for himself.

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The Baptism

In heaven, or in the best of all possible worlds, we should all feel good about ourselves.  Here on earth, in the midst of messy living, we often wish for a clean, new start.

Water, which cleans our clothing, our bodies, and our homes, has long been a symbol for spiritual or emotional cleansing as well.

Here Trish reads an excerpt in which Gideon describes the baptism of his friend Cody.

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Lost Boys

The Virginian, cowboy hero in Wister’s Western of the same title, started life with nothing except confidence in his own ability.  What happens when a child never has a chance to build that confidence?  James Garbarino wrote Lost Boys in the 1980s.  The subtitle of the book is Why Our Boys Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. He advises reaching unhappy boys before the age of eight when they tend to become so sealed off in distrust that we can’t help them.

Rosalie, raising Gideon in the 1990s knows about Garbarino’s book through her job in social work.  She worries that it may be too late for Gideon.  While Gideon is not violent, she recognizes that the pattern is the same.  His angry outbursts are emotionally violent.  And how can she reach out to him when anger in her family history has left her wounded?  Rosalie lacks confidence in her ability to raise her child.  She lacks information and doesn’t know where to find it.

Gideon’s River explores the drama of “the bully and the wimp” as it has come down through families since ancient times.  It’s not only women and children who suffer in domination culture.  Most men suffer, too.  Even at the top, men are terrified of losing their edge—and they terrify every man, woman, and child of less physical strength or, perhaps, less willingness to be cruel.  When outright violence is not used, threats of violence and destructive criticism become accepted—and by destructive criticism we mean those comments calculated to reduce confidence.

Confidence is the key to Gideon’s happiness.  What is it about divorce that shakes a kid’s confidence?  James Garbarino tallied the number of strikes that had gone against the boys he interviewed–divorce, parents living in different cities, no father, father in jail, father on drugs, mother on drugs, raised by grandmother or foster parents,…  Garbarino explained that a kid could have one or two of these challenges to overcome in early life, but if he had three or more, chances are he would be overwhelmed by the excess of confusion and the lack of value others placed in him.

Garbarino has made a career of compassionately following the pathway from childhood to prison for some of our children.  You and I, as caring parents who are about good enough, are looking at a subtler level of the same issue.  Even one of the factors above can impact a child.  The most common is divorce.  With divorce often comes parents living far apart so that the child must always give up one to see the other, perhaps making a difficult and scary trip.  Add the different lifestyles in two homes, each one a silent criticism of the other.  Often, too, one parent complains about the other.  After all, they have parted ways for a reason.  What this all adds up to is that parents like Rosalie, in Gideon’s River, face challenges that require more than the simple love with which they began life with this child.


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A Man That Is a Man

In Gideon’s River Rosalie has some idea what her hopes are for her beloved son.  She wants him to be a confident, able, and happy person.  She wants him to grow up to be a man who can handle himself in life.  Isn’t that what all parents want for their children, a successful adulthood?  But Gideon is not surrounded by role models of manhood–and he has lost confidence in himself.  It is as if he had said, “You can’t throw me away, and if you try, I’ll make a royal fuss about it.”  That’s the spirit, Gideon.

Let’s have a look at what a man in his prime is.

What does the novel Gideon’s River have to do with classic Western novels about cowboys and cattle drives and poker games? In one sense, all stories are the same story: a character is tested and comes through with his honor—or does not.

The prototype of the American Western was a book called The Virginian published by Owen Wister in 1902. All Westerns since then have been modeled more or less on The Virginian, but few have matched its stature or that of the cowboy it celebrates, much less Wister’s sense of humor and truth. When I lose my way in life and need a code of honor to square myself by, I think of the code of this remarkable cowboy, a code that is innate in all of us, including the angry Gideon.

The Virginian is not much older than Gideon when he leaves his home on an eastern farm where too many complacent older brothers hold sway and takes on a grown man’s work in the west. If trail driving and ranching and playing poker require hard work and astuteness, they also give scope to greatness.

As he tells it, an able man will, with something “away down deep beyond brains,”

play winnin’ poker with whatever hand he’s holdin’ when the trouble begins. Maybe it will be a mean, trifflin’ army, or an empty six-shooter, or a lame hawss, or maybe just nothin’ but his natural countenance.

The man’s courage extents to his relationships. Molly pretends she doesn’t remember the man who rescued her from a stagecoach stuck in a swirling river. He gently chides her,

“You are a grown woman, a responsible woman. You’ve come…to a rough country to instruct young children that play games,–tag, and hide-and-seek, and fooleries they’ll have to quit when they get old. Don’t you think pretendin’ yu’ don’t know a man,–his name’s nothin’, but him,–a man whom you were glad enough to let assist yu’ when somebody was needed,–don’t you think that’s mighty close to hide-and-seek them children plays?”

Here was an early description of social dishonesty as playing games and a model of honest exchange.

Maybe the scope of a fresh society is part of what is lacking for our boys today. Learn how Gideon and his friend Cody demand ways to prove themselves. If society doesn’t provide a rite of manhood, boys will create one, even if their actions get them into scrapes. Read Gideon’s River.

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