#BookReview Swift River by Essie Chambers @SimonSchusterCA #SwiftRiver #EssieChambers #SimonSchusterCA Title: Swift River

Author: Essie J. Chambers

Published by: Simon & Schuster on Jun. 4, 2024

Genres: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Pages: 304

Format: ARC, Paperback

Source: Simon & Schuster Canada

Book Rating: 8.5/10

It’s the summer of 1987 in Swift River, and Diamond Newberry is learning how to drive. Ever since her Pop disappeared seven years ago, she and her mother hitchhike everywhere they go. But that’s not the only reason Diamond stands out: she’s teased relentlessly about her weight, and since Pop’s been gone, she is the only Black person in all of Swift River. This summer, Ma is determined to declare Pop legally dead so that they can collect his life insurance money, get their house back from the bank, and finally move on.

But when Diamond receives a letter from a relative she’s never met, key elements of Pop’s life are uncovered, and she is introduced to two generations of African American Newberry women, whose lives span the 20th century and reveal a much larger picture of prejudice and abandonment, of love and devotion. As pieces of their shared past become clearer, Diamond gains a sense of her place in the world and in her family. But how will what she’s learned of the past change her future?

A story of first friendships, family secrets, and finding the courage to let go, Swift River is a sensational debut about how history shapes us and heralds the arrival of a major new literary talent.


Raw, atmospheric, and insightful!

Swift River is a descriptive, moving novel that sweeps you away to New England in 1987 and into the life of biracial teen Diamond Newberry, the only young girl of colour in her whole small town who, after her father suddenly disappears in 1980, struggles to come to grips with her burgeoning weight and a constant sense of being adrift and disconnected due to a lack of relationship and any knowledge into her paternal ancestry.

The prose is vivid and expressive. The characters are vulnerable, lonely, and adrift. And the plot is a heart-tugging, compelling tale of life, love, loss, family, friendship, poverty, prejudice, racism, community, courage, desperation, self-reflection, and coming of age.

Overall, Swift River is a rich, gritty, absorbing tale by Chambers that transports you to another time and place and immerses you so thoroughly into the feelings, lives, and personalities of the characters you can’t help but be enthralled, emotional, and invested from start to finish.


This novel is available now.

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.




Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.


About Essie J. Chambers

Essie Chambers earned her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Vermont Studio Center, and Baldwin for the Arts. A former film and television executive, she was a producer on the documentary Descendant, which was released by the Obamas’ Higher Ground production company and Netflix in 2022. Swift River is her debut novel.

Photograph by Christine Jean Chambers.

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