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The Book Club: “Go As a River” and more short reviews from readers

Editor’s note: The opinions of the smart, well-read women in my Denver book club mean a lot, and often determine what the rest of us choose to pile onto our bedside tables. So we asked them, and all Denver Post readers, to share these mini-reviews with you. Have any to offer? Email

“Go as a River,” Shelley Read (Spiegel & Grau, 2023)

“Go as a River,” presents as a great American novel, containing universal themes of displacement and the overcoming of hardships. The mini-themes, however, are what give this novel its depth; the many layers of love and the possibilities of heartbreak when it comes to the act of being a mother; the necessity of female friendship; and the beauty, resiliency and wonders of our environment. Shelley Read, a fifth-generation Coloradan, wraps up these themes expertly with her breathtaking descriptions. Her tale is grounded in a less-than-virtuous yet fascinating part of Colorado’s history. “Go as a River” teaches us what being a Coloradan means. – 4 stars (out of 4); Jill Carstens, Denver (

“The Blue Machine: How the Ocean Works,” by Helen Czerski (W.W. Norton & Company, 2023)

A machine, Czerski reminds us, converts some form of energy into movement. The Earth’s oceans constitute one big machine, constantly in motion, as evidenced by currents, tides, streams and drifts. Czerski explains the science of oceanography and much more, through the various lenses of history, geography, animals and a number of sea-going cultures. The stories of her encounters with the Polynesian culture are most entertaining and provide a break from all the science. But a few of Czerski’s departures from her scientific expertise feel like tangential non-sequiturs. A small nit to pick in this otherwise informative, accessible and important contribution to our deeper understanding of our fragile planet. Czerski closes with a call to action to protect our precious blue machine. — 3 1/2 stars (out of 4); Kathleen Lance, Denver

“Stealing,” by Margaret Verble (Mariner Books, 2024)

In the 1950s, Kit Crockett, a mixed Cherokee child, loses her mother to tuberculosis, yet has a contented life with her father until, through the ploys of white community members, she is taken from her family and sent to a “boarding school” as a ward of the state. “Stealing” is simply and beautifully written by Margaret Verble, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. (A previous book, “Maud’s Line,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.) Kit is a frank, trustworthy narrator, with a powerful voice. She is a careful observer, learning to navigate both the truths and the lies she is told, and developing a perceptive wisdom.

This is not a book for children; Kit encounters some horrid experiences. Yet Kit shows the great strength described by her Native grandmother. By the end of this fast-reading book, Kit takes her shot to reclaim the life stolen from her. “I am descended from people who survived the Trail of Tears. So I’ll just put one foot in front of the other until I get to where I have to go. Those that gave up hope and stopped on the road died in the snow.” — 4 stars (out of 4); Neva Gronert, Parker

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