The book “North River” by Pete Hamill is not only a smooth and wonderful read but also pays homage to those who lived and breathed New York during the Depression.
Dr. James Delaney lives on Horatio Street just miles from the North River. Though he is surviving, those around him are suffering from illness, desperation, and injury as the Depression takes its toll. He serves the poor of his neighborhood faithfully and it is his kindness to his patients that proves him an endearing main character.
Though he does his job day after, Delaney is closed off and numb as memories of the war, his wife that has left him, and the suffering around him, over power his life.
The story truly begins when Delaney’s 2-year-old grandson is left in his care. When the Doctor hires a woman, Rose, to help take care of the boy something begins to change in Delaney’s home, and his heart. The three begin to form a small family and as spring takes over the city, Delaney feels his heart begin to thaw for the first time in years.
It is the relationships in this book that make it something worth reading. Delaney’s relationships with his patients, his growing relationship with his grandson, and the charged relationship with Rose are what make him human and someone worth reading about. The most interesting relationship is the one he and the other residents have with the City. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how the city of New York becomes a character in itself.
Even if you’ve never been to New York, the city comes to life page after page in this wonderful and heart-warming novel.
More great novels that take us back in time:
Snow Flower and The Secret Fan
A Prayer for Owen Meany