When You’re Down by the River
by Christopher Lowe
Publisher: BatCat Press
Date: May 2014
Reviewed by: B. Kari Moore
The South is in Christopher Lowe’s blood. You can feel it from the first words of his new short story collection When You’re Down by the River. Each story is steeped in sweet tradition and it’s clear that Lowe is taking a leisurely path below the Mason-Dixon way. You can feel the South, but not its expected heat; Christopher Lowe’s stories are cool in their simplicity but rich and thorough in their execution.
Lowe has the ability to make martyrs ruthless and the angels sing in sin. In “Uncle Frank,” his ex-convict turned preacher-family man feels altruistic; while the spurned spouse in the title piece is a hard woman to love, a woman you’d cheat on yourself if you had the chance. With each storyline and each character, Lowe makes a point of keeping them human and close to the ground. The lofty ideals are left to the reader.
There are four distinct stories in You’re Down by the River and each shares a certain reliability. While you never see the strings, each decision made by the author seems square and fitting, without comment but with expectation. Lowe knows where every story is going and we deliberately follow along. However, common enough to be part of the aesthetic but rare enough not to taken for granted are moments of pure daring and skill, where the Mississippi man takes the reader all the way to the edge, sometimes even dangling us off. He is ever in complete control, reeling us in when needed, keeping our minds in check but leaving our bodies on walkabout.
A solid collection, When You’re Down by the River by Christopher Lowe will make you crave the South, a certain type of people and a different type of living. Blue Lyra Review is honored to have published Chris Lowe before, and we look forward to watching his continuous and inevitable rise.