Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River
A summer camp youll never forget
I think we can help this girl, Anita said. This is a real opportunity. She sounded excited, all her sociological juices kicking in.
Jeannie snorted. I had a big Oh yeah? look on my face.
How bad can she be? Anita asked. Shes just a child.
El Campbell is just about to find out how bad Tiffin Ramsey can be. Its Els first year as a counselor at her old summer camp, and shes eager to simply relax and have fun before starting college in the fall. After all, how hard can it be to watch a couple of girl campers?
Els dreams come crashing down around her as soon as she meets Tiffin, the governors daughter. Tiffins family has sent her to camp in order to help her troubled habits, but Tiffin seems unwilling to change. Refusing to do kitchen duty, stay in her cabin during rest period, respect camp authority, or interact positively with any girl in any way, Tiffin proves to be quite the handful.
It isnt long before Tiffins family connections leak out. And its even sooner that the news the Tiffins sister drowned a year before rushes through the camp. Many girls are convinced that Tiffin killed her sister, hence her utterly destructive behavior. Els not so sure, but time is running out. Tiffins life is heading downward, and Els the only one who can see the warning signs&
I can honestly say this book sent me on an emotional roller coaster. By turns funny, thought provoking, and heartbreaking, the plot was expertly built and executed through to a poignant, although predictable, finish. The scene brought back many of my own summer camp experiences, and Els situation was very easy to relate to. Overall, a wonderful read, and one that I wont soon forget.
Recommended for readers 14 and up, due to the treatment of some more mature themes.
Dramatic, Fast-moving and Deep
Reader reviewed by J. Mitchell
Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River is the story of a troubled girl, Tiffin who attends summer camp. While at camp, Tiffin makes life miserable for all concerned. One camp counselor, El Campbell, realizes that there must be a cause for Tiffin's disruptive behavior and depression. In her attempts to get to the bottom of the trouble, El uncovers the facts about the death of the girl's younger sister, who drowned a year or so earlier. Some of the other girls think Tiffin killed her sister. In reaching out to Tiffin, El discovers some things about herself as well.
By turns captivating and nerve-wracking, Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River addresses some compelling issues. On the one hand, the novel masquerades as a coming of age story about some high school graduates having their first job as camp counselors in the summer before college and dealing with teen issues of sex, drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, it also deals with deeper issues such as suicide, sibling grief, guilt, anger, rejection, abnormal behavior, denial, and bullying, which the author handles in an expert fashion.
In particular, Tiffin's family provoked me since they were in denial of the child's need for serious help, dismissing her behavioral problems as "minor" and rejecting her by placing her in summer camp for six weeks while they went on the campaign trail.
Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River certainly deals with some very interesting questions. While the reading level is suitable for ages 9 thru 12, the subject matter does handle some mature themes that may not be appropriate for this younger age group. Recommended for ages 15 and up if you like fast-moving, dramatic, thought provoking novels dealing with real issues and depicting real characters that you can care about.
Serious material, made entertaining and brought vividly alive.
Reader reviewed by Susan Marya Baronoff
With Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River, Lyda Phillips proves that her recent novel, Mr. Touchdown, was no fluke. As crisp and wise and well-written as Mr. Touchdown, Peace I Ask of Thee also probes disturbing themes, weaving them in and through the comforting rhythms of everyday life.
In fact, the rhythm of life at Camp Nichia is one of the reasons El Campbell had spent all of her childhood summers there. Now that she was finally a counselor, it was her turn to teach new campers about Nichias traditions and rituals, contests and classes, how cabins were assigned and friends were made& In other words, it was going to be the perfect end-of-childhood summer.
But it wasnt. Something happened, and instead of El changing her young charges lives, one of them changes hers.
A wealthy, powerful family deposits their troubled daughter, Tiffin, at the camp, and Els summer of perfection turns into an ongoing confrontation with one very angry, very unhappy young girl. Its not just that Tiffin wont cooperate with any of the rituals and traditions which she wont its that shes weird! Really, deeply strange. So sometimes its easier to just leave her alone. And thats exactly what El and the other girls do. Whenever possible.
Eventually, Els unexamined, adolescent contempt for anybody different gives way to concern for her disturbed young charge. From that point on, she is in a race against time&trying to wake herself up from the soothing comforts of the cozily familiar, and see what is.
Once again, Phillips has given us a strong young voice. Described as a normal, healthy teenager, El finds herself dealing with things she doesnt understand, doesnt want, and cant ignore. Hers is the heroines journey -- down, down, into the depths of her own soul; to make sense of madness, to find meaning at the heart of chaos.
And best of all, the author takes us on that journey, without giving up one bit of the fun and romance and silliness and boredom, and the wonder of ones 18th summer. The tastes and sounds and smells of camp& songs and chores& goofy traditions&and the sweetness of a first summer love& Phillips obvious love of nature, combined with her exceptional gift for description, let us hike and swim and shoot the rapids right along with El and her friends.
This wonderful story, with its fast-moving plot and engaging characters, will be thought-provoking for readers of any age. It tackles such tough topics as mental illness and the cruelty often displayed by groups against individuals it fears, and it does so in a richly detailed, multi-textured world, as vibrantly alive to the reader as it is to El and her fellow campers.