The River Queen: A Memoir

The River Queen: A Memoir

by Mary Morris

Paperback(First Edition)

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In the fall of 2005 acclaimed writer Mary Morris set off down the Mississippi River in a battered old houseboat called The River Queen, with two river rats named Tom and Jerry and an ailing, irascible rat terrier named Samantha Jean. Her father had just died. Her daughter had gone off to college. Lost and uncertain, Morris returned to the river of her youth, to the waterside towns where her father had once lived. In this poignant and often humorous memoir, Morris reclaims the world of her childhood as she gets a bearing on her future. She describes traveling down stream through the Midwest, living like a pirate as she survives a tornado and infestation of mayflies, bivouacs on beaches, and ties up to paddleboats in the dark of night. As she learns to pilot the River Queen through these fabled waters, Morris delivers a memoir that "deserves to be both a best-seller and a classic" (The Courier-Journal).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312427894
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 05/27/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

MARY MORRIS is the author of the travel memoirs Nothing to Declare, Wall to Wall, and Angels and Aliens, along with six novels and three collections of short stories. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

Table of Contents

Downstream     1
Storm     28
Islands     38
Ghost River     65
Mist     87
Current     107
Around the Bend     129
Mayflies     151
Hannibal     166
Hurricane     193
Confluence     222
Upstream     245

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The River Queen are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The River Queen.

Discussion Questions

l. The author has published novels, short stories, and other travel memoirs such as this one. She has said that no matter what genre she writes in, she is always telling a story. What is the story here and why is Morris telling it?

2. The book contains many references to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Do you think that the author intended to write a modern day Huckleberry Finn? What are the similarities in theme and subject matter between the two books?

3. The memoir has an interesting structure, moving back and forth in time. How does the author accomplish this? Is it effective? Does it remind you of a river?

4. Music plays an important role in this book. How would you describe its role in the book and also in terms of Morris' relationship to her father?

5. Morris wants to discover her father and the secret life he led. Why is the discovery of the photograph in Hannibal so important to her?

6. How does the author use the comedy of life on the boat with Tom and Jerry to offset the sadness over the loss of her father?

7. How would you characterize the author's relationship with her father? Do you think he was a good parent to her?

8. How does the author incorporate the history of the river into the present-day story? Which did you find more compelling?

9. Does this journey make you think Morris is brave or foolhardy? And does it make you think of journeys you would like to take?

10. At one point Morris refers to the river as a "ghost river." In this post 9/11, post-Katrina world, do you feel as if she is trying to impart a social or political message? Later in the book Jerry refers to the river as the last free place in America. What do you think he means?

Customer Reviews

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The River Queen 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In her memoir, The River Queen, Mary Morris takes her readers on a unique journey down the mighty Mississippi as she makes a private journey of her own¿coming to terms with her father¿s passing. Her naïveté is refreshing, and she admits early in the book, ¿I don¿t have the river in my head, yet.¿ Unlike the writer¿s friend, who never thought about the river despite growing up in St. Louis, I grew up twenty miles southeast of St. Louis, and the river has been a large presence in my life. Like many Midwesterners, I have traveled the river and visited some of the places Morris describes. By the book¿s end, Morris has changed. She has learned things about her father¿s life and about herself, contentment evident as she pilots the last leg of her journey with the river firmly fixed in her head. I agree with T.S. Eliot, ¿The sea is around us, but the river is in us.¿ Reading Morris¿s memoir will put a little of the river in every reader.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Brooklyn, travel author Mary Morris was mourning the death of her father as her daughter was going off to college when she decided the walls of her empty nest abode was increasing her anxiety caused by these recent reminders of her mortality. The travelogue writer needed something different to occupy her middle age thoughts as pictures from the 1920s of her father makes her feel she must do something to honor his memory and to get her out of the doldrums. She hires a Mississippi River houseboat the River Queen owned by Captain Jerry to take her down the great river starting in Wisconsin with plans to reach Hannibal, Missouri home of Twain and her dad, who told her and her brother many river tales.------------- The memoir is at its best when Ms. Morris observes the ¿mallization¿ of the river towns that make places like Dubuque different than what she describes in her dad¿s vivid images and metaphors. Also fun is when Jerry teaches her how to steer their vessel though she is not a grade A student. When Ms. Morris goes introspective the travelogue turns muddier than the Mighty Mississippi especially when she rages about her dislikes. Still this is a fine memoir that is entertaining when Ms. Morris brings to life the changing upper river basin especially in the latter half of the journey as if the river eventually cleansed the visitor¿s hurting soul.------------ Harriet Klausner
labelleaurore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good book, written as a memoir by a woman travelling alone, the Mississpi river
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a person who loves the Mississippi River, I was looking forward to reading River Queen. I was also interested in the author's personal journey and reflections on her family's life. Now, over half way through the book, I'm not sure I'll finish it. The writing is disjointed; the author a constant critic of small towns and the Midwest; in fact, there's not much she doesn't criticize and complain about. A previous review says by the end of her trip she's changed. I hope it's for the better. I just don't know if I'm willing to invest the time and emotions to find out.